March 2009 Archives

The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Marcus Villius Sextus Incident -- Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Early Roman House

It was a dark and stormy night, and Marcus Villius Sextus was sound asleep in his bed. Even the occasional clap of thunder did not wake him. However, he did awaken with a start when a tall stranger sat on his chest. A small oil lamp allowed the slightest amount of light into the room. In the very dim light, Marcus could see the stranger's thin muscular frame as he was stripped to the waist. After a crack of thunder, Marcus smelled the unmistakable odor of blood, and he noticed a shimmer from the crimson color covering the stranger's torso.

"Help!" cried Marcus. "Guards help!"

"Scream all you want," the stranger said in a calm and softly menacing voice.

Marcus stuggled to free himself from under the stranger, but was trapped. "Who are you? What do you want?" he asked.

"You sleep soundly -- like a man without anything on his conscience."

"I have done nothing wrong. Why should I not sleep soundly?"

"Does the name Aemilia mean anything to you?"

"Aemilia? I was acquitted of that."

"Ha ha ha," the stranger laughed menacingly. "While your generosity towards the jurors was satisfactory to them, the gods were not sufficiently swayed."

"From that curved sword over your shoulder, you are clearly not a Roman," replied Marcus. "What would a barbarian like you know of our gods?"

"Do not Romans fight with the non-Romans regularly? Would this not make these so-called barbarians tools of Mars -- the god of war?"

"That is a well rehearsed speech whoever you are," Marcus replied as he briefly increased his struggling.

"The name is Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius," replied the stranger in a whisper.

"Ferrarius? You were never a blacksmith!"

"I let my steel speak for itself," replied the stranger raising his dagger.

"Wait! Wait!" cried the pinned man struggling to get free. "If you spare me -- I can make it worth your while."

"The messenger of the fates will not be swayed by your bribery."

"Then... Then... I will improve my sacrifice to the gods! I can pay! I have resources!"

"Attempting to bargain after your lot is cast will get you nowhere as well."

Another clap of thunder erupted as Marcus attempted to avoid the drawn dagger. He struggled as hard as he could but was completely pinned under the stranger.

"Is there nothing that I can do?" Marcus begged.

"Your hubris brought you to this point," replied the stranger. "Only someone with great hubris would believe that you can bargain with the fates. I assure you that you cannot. Your best bet would have been to humbly accept your fate."

"Wait! Wait!" screamed Marcus. "You are not some god made flesh. You are just a tool of the fickle fates. I must warn you that I am under the protection of Marcus Licinius Crassus. He is a very powerful man, and he will avenge me!"

"Do you think this action was not cleared with him first?"

"Help! Help! Help!" Marcus cried as he writhed to avoid his fate.

The dagger plunged into the throat of his victim, and Gaius said quietly, "The fates are satisfied."

When the assassin was certain that Marcus was dead, he climbed off of him. Gaius took a deep breath and gave a heavy sigh. With this, he picked up the lifeless body and walked into the atrium of the house. As he emerged from the Cubiculum, he noticed a house servant standing there.

The servant asked, "What is to become of me?"

"Your master is dead. In all likelihood, you are now a freedman. You may choose to do whatever you wish."

"Free? That is exciting," the freed slave said in an unsure voice.

Gaius continue to carry the lifeless body towards the entrance at the front of the house. Getting in the way and pointing at the scabbard over Gaius's shoulder the freed slave asked "What kind of sword is that?"

"It is a shamshir. It is the sword of my people," Gaius replied as he continued to attempt to get past.

"It is not straight like a Roman sword. It is curved."

"A straight blade limits length when it comes to drawing the sword. The arm can go only so far away from the body. A curved blade reduces this problem. It still can be long and still quickly drawn."

"Interesting... So, when you killed the guards," the slave asked continuing to get between the stranger and the door. "Why did you not kill me?"

"I had no quarrel with you," replied Gaius with a glare in his eye. "The fates only asked only your master to pay -- and those that would assist him."

"Oh! Say, you are covered in blood -- are you all right?" the slave asked continuing to obstruct the exit.

"The blood is not mine."

"What will you do now?" asked the slave breaking eye contact and looking over the stranger's shoulder.

Gaius threw the body of Marcus Villius Sextus at the slave, turned while drawing his scimitar, and opened up the belling of an armed individual attempting to kill him from behind. The second slave dropped his short sword and attempted to contain his internal organs. Another slash from the scimitar opened up his neck and he fell to the ground dead.

The first slave collapsed under the weight of his former master's body, and was pinned underneath. He struggled to free himself, but was unable.

"I am sorry!" cried the pinned slave. "He talked me into it."

"You were free to choose your path after the death of your master," replied Gaius. "You chose poorly."

"So did you," replied the pinned slave.

The stranger wiped the bloody scimitar on the pinned slave's tunic and returned it to its sheath. Coolly, he pulled out his dagger, and peered over the dead man at the trapped slave.

"I am not a freedman," he responded with a quick thrust to the throat to the slave.

The stranger removed all of the bodies from the house. He laid them out side by side and exposed them to the elements. In this way, the scavengers and insects would have easy access to the dead flesh. Further, anyone passing by would know that a vendetta was served.

Once the bodies were outside, the stranger cleaned himself off with the water in the impluvium. He grabbed his lamp, and did a quick search of the house to make sure his task was complete. When he was satisfied, he grabbed his tunic and returned to his home.

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Kalluunle

II

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gulf of Aden: 0104 Hours

Nadif smiled at Abdi as he took a long drag on his cigarette. "Look, all we have to do now is get this ship back to port and we can sell the goods and even the ship."

"Better than that," Asad added. "We are not doing anything illegal. By maritime law when there is no one left on board we can claim salvage rights. So we don't have to worry about the navies. They cannot touch us. Isn't that so, kalluunle?"

Omar nodded his head. He did not know much about maritime law having spent most of the last ten years ignoring it. However, Asad used to be in the merchant marine and he believed what Asad said was correct.

Abdi relaxed and started to study the bridge equipment. He would need to familiarize himself if he wanted to successfully guide this ship into port.

"Nadif, make sure the skiffs are secured to the ship." Omar commanded. Nadif smiled and saluted before he exited the bridge.

"Asad, assemble the men and start taking an inventory of what we have aboard," Omar ordered the next man.

"Sayid!" Abdi exclaimed. "Look at the instruments. The radio is not working, the compass is going crazy and the GPS doesn't function!"

"Abdi you need to relax," Omar said as he walked up next to the younger fisherman. Before he started looking over the equipment Omar turned towards the remaining five men on the bridge. "You may want to give Asad a hand," He said. The remaining men left the bridge.

"Let us take a look at the equipment," Omar said in a calm voice to Abdi. The young man was probably his most superstitious pirate and saw everything as naxis, or bad luck.

Omar picked up the radio and turned a few knobs to pick up reception, but all that came over was static. This did not bother Omar much. Bad atmospherics could raise havoc on radios. He then looked at the compass. The needle spun around randomly and did not point in any specific direction. This too could be explained if there was something magnetic aboard ship or if the needle became damaged somehow.

The GPS system would only display numbers that did not make sense. Like a digital version of the ship's malfunctioning compass the numbers kept randomly changing. It too must have been damaged. Possibly this is what convinced the crew to abandon ship.

"The ship may have run into some electrical field and it damaged the equipment," Omar said to the nervous helmsman. "We'll bring the engines up to speed and borrow a compass from one of the fishing boats."

Omar did not know much about electrical fields but he figured that Abdi knew even less. The explanation seemed to work for Abdi began the task of preparing to bring the ship home.

"Do you have everything under control?" Omar asked.

"Haa sayid," Abdi replied.

"Dhurwaa, I am going to check with the men. If you need assistance use the intercom." With that Omar left the bridge.

Pirates

A score of pirates scampered across the bridge laughing and joking with each other as they took inventory of the cargo. The Kohl began to move again over the sea. Omar walked over to a rail and lit up another cigarette. The air was warm and still and the cloud cover began to hide the cold moonlight. "It was all dhurwaa, good," Omar thought. "Allah had blessed them with a great prize like this."

What happened to the crew did not seem to bother Omar too much. Before the fall of the Somali government Omar used to fish these waters with his father. But with the chaos of civil war and the competitive fishing from other nations Omar felt compelled to find another vocation. Over the last decade Omar found that he and his men did pretty well with the occasional captured ship.

Most of the time the crew were held hostage until ransom was made from the ship's owners. Sometimes the captain and chief engineer were ransomed bringing in an easy $50,000 American. Sometimes, useful items were found aboard the ship that could be sold on the black market.

Unfortunately with the latter the black market demands could rapidly shift. What was in high demand a month ago could suddenly be worthless the next day. There were other risks involved too. Some ships carried armed security through the Gulf. Some ship crews knew how to repel pirates by bringing the ship up to full speed and zigzagging back and forth to create great wakes that could capsize a skiff. Even if the pirates did approach one of these ships, they could be washed off from the spray of a high-pressure fire hose. The more modern ships had the LRAD or Long range acoustic device which are non-lethal, but the pulse of sound discharge would incapacitate anyone unfortunate enough to encounter one. Omar did once, and he never forgot it.

The greatest risk however was from the multitude of naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden. There were ships from the United States, Russia, Great Briton, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to name just a few. The ships were one thing; the patrolling aircraft were another. Often they could see you before you saw them.

However, it only took one successful raid to make a pirate crew wealthy. Of course, if you did it once it was worth the risks to do it again. Omar had a good crew and over the years they were known as one of the best.

Omar could feel a mist rising around the ship. The air must be cooling off Omar figured. However, little things like this did not really concern Omar right now. He wanted to get the ship back to port before a trigger-happy frigate came across them. Even if they claimed the ship was abandoned before they captured it, it was highly unlikely anyone would believe them.

"kalluunle," Nadif said behind Omar breaking the pirate leader's train of thought.

"Haa, yes, Nadif," Omar said as he turned away from looking out to sea to speak to his lieutenant.

"I believe there is something you should see below decks," Nadif said in an uncharacteristic nervous voice.

"What is it, Nadif?" Omar asked flipping the spent cigarette butt over his shoulder and out to sea.

"The mess hall, it's...well, the mess is set but everyone is gone," Nadif said in a wavering voice.

Omar too was starting to feel uneasy. "Damn, these superstitious fools who see a wandering laab, spirit, everywhere. They are now making me shiver like a young girl," Omar cursed mentally.

"Haa, we know the crew left in a hurry," Omar said in a reassuring voice.

"Kalluunle, the food is still warm. The crew could not have left but a few minutes before we boarded."

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This is exactly how I remember the "Wrath of Khan"

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Marcus Villius Sextus Incident -- Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Since Rome does not allow wagon traffic during the daylight hours, the streets of Rome were bustling. There was no solitary slinking away in the cover of night for this assassin. Thus, Gaius had to dodge the wagons and carts making deliveries on his way home from Marcus Villius Sextus's villa. On the other hand, it was not unusual for someone to be out and in the streets at that late hour. Thus, his presence did not raise any suspicions.

He made it back to the blacksmith shop with little difficulty. Waiting for him when he arrived home was a teamster with a load of wood. His crew arose and unloaded the wood after Gaius paid the man.

With this transaction out of the way, Gaius headed up to his apartment on the third floor. He had a very strenuous night. He eagerly made his way to his bed chamber, and disrobed. Wearily he climbed into his bed and quickly fell asleep.

However, his rest was short lived because just after first light he had a visitor. Titus Aemilius Mancinus anxiously entered the blacksmith shop. One of Gaius's servants awoke him, and he met Titus in the main room of his apartment..

"Is it done?" asked Titus.

"There are plenty of other resources to determine this besides disturbing my sleep," replied Gaius grumpily.

"I know," responded Titus apologetically. "I was -- am -- just too anxious."

"Marcus Villius Sextus is dead," replied Gaius.

"And -- his family?"

"The fates smiled upon them."

"What does that mean?"

"They were not at home -- and were spared."

"I want them dead! Dead do you hear me!"

"What would you have me do? Travel the four corners of the earth to chase them down?"

"Yes! I want them dead!"

"You could never afford such an adventure. Further, it was not part of the agreement."

"But..."

"No!" Gaius said with a raised voice. He took a deep breath and continued in a calmer voice, "If the fates return them to Rome for their own revenge for this incident, I will take care of them. However, I will not go against the wishes of the gods."

"The gods be damned!"

"Watch yourself citizen Mancinus."

"I apologize," replied Titus.

"No need to apologize to me. The fates were kind to you in allowing for the elimination of Marcus Villius Sextus. I suggest you apologize to them and double your offer of thanks."

"You want to be paid double?"

"You misunderstand," replied Gaius in a calming voice. "My fee remains the same; however, you should make a sacrifice to the gods. If you had no thought of giving such thanks, you should make it a big offering or the fates may come after you."

"Are you threatening me?"

"Sextus did not have the resources to protect himself from the fates. Do you?"

"So..."

"That is all I am saying on the subject. You may leave the remainder of your owed payment on the table and leave me."

"I will not be swayed by your threats!"

"As you wish," replied Gaius returning to his bed chamber.

Gaius did not bother seeing Titus out. Further, he did not bother removing his clothes. He just fell back into bed. However, Gaius did not sleep for long before another visitor came looking for him. Once again he met the visitor in his main room.

"You should not leave such large sums sitting around," began the messenger pointing to several coins on his table.

"Thank you," replied Gaius. "It was payment for a recent business transaction. While we do not often have this kind of money around, it is a part of the business."

"Very good," replied the messenger. "I represent Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus."

"Please send my regards to the Senator. It is an honor." asked Gaius.

"I will see to it. He has a proposition for you."

"He can speak to one of my guildsman for smith work. He does not need to consult with me."

"It is not about smithing."

"I see. What does the senator wish from me?"

"Tragic events occurred during the night at Marcus Villiaus Sextus's villa."

"Tragedy can strike any of us at any time," replied Gaius.

"This was a well directed tragedy."

"As you say."

"A vendetta was carried out on a person under the Senator's protection."

"Sometimes the fates will not be denied."

"Be that as it may, Senator Crassus was greatly impressed by these events."

"What does this have to do with me -- a humble blacksmith?"

"Can I be frank?"

"Of course!"

"The senator is a man of much influence, and he knows things."

"Even men without influence know things."

"That is true. In any event, there is fine villa that is now unoccupied," stated the messenger.

"That is a tragedy," replied Gaius.

"My master is willing to offer this villa for certain jobs to be undertaken."

"What does any of this have to do with me?"

"I do not wish to be indelicate. Do I have to spell it out?"

"Obviously, you do."

"My master informs me of certain facts. He believes he knows how you supplement your income from the guild of smiths in your service. For instance, where this pile comes from. In fact, I am aware that your skills are much admired in certain circles. My master wishes to take advantage of these skills. In exchange, he offers you the villa of Sextus for simply accepting his offer. In the future, he will jobs for you to do. He wishes to assure you that it will be very lucrative business for you."

"Why would someone with these admirable skills wish to work for the Senator?"

"Do you not know who he is?"

"Of course I do. Who does not know the wealthiest man in Rome."

"His wealth and influence come with many advantages."

"If I were the one you seek, and I am not saying that I am, what kind of advantages could the Senator possibly offer?"

"I have been authorized to offer you whatever you wish. What advantages are you looking for?"

"Again, hypothetically, would the Senator offer the advantage of not doing a job if this person does not wish to?"

"I suppose within reason that could be arranged, but it would come with limits."

"If this alleged person decided to join you, would you give him the advantage of informing innocents that they should leave so they do not get hurt?"

"I would assume that would not be part of the bargain."

"For such a dangerous undertaking, the only advantage you offer -- this person you are seeking -- is material wealth."

"I suppose that is true."

"Do you suspect Senator Crassus is attempting to be in competition with the fates?"

"You are declining the offer?"

"I am not the person the Senator is looking for."

"You are not the person the Senator is looking for?"

"You can go back to his villa now."

"I will go back to his villa now."

Gaius declined the offer from a very powerful man in Rome. This would have to have influence in the life of Gaius. However, Gaius had been owned once, and he said he would never allow that to happen again. Thus, he showed the messenger every courtesy he could as he showed the messenger the door. It had been a busy day already, and he wanted to see if he could get some more sleep.

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Kalluunle

III

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gulf of Aden: 0125 Hours

"Nadif, you are being a habilaawe," Omar lightly scolded. "So, the crew left before we did. Why does that concern us?"

"I fear it may be trap, but my stomach says it is like Abdi claims and is naxis," Nadif replied.

"Abdi is a good man, but he is a habilaawe. He believes everything is a bad omen. Now even his superstition has you seeing a laab everywhere," comforted Omar.

"Maya, maya," Nadif said lowly. "No, no sayid. My gut says this is a cursed ship."

Nadif only called Omar sayid or leader if there was something very grave going on. "Bal, okay," Omar finally said. "I'll take a look at the mess. I am sure there is a good explanation. Or at the very least I should be able to grab a meal."

"Sayid, I would not joke about this. The food may be tainted," Nadif said very seriously.

"Bal, bal," Omar said in a soothing voice. "I will look at the mess."

* * * * *

Five minutes later Omar stood in the mess hall of the Kohl. The tables were set with food on plates and beverages in cups. The food by now was lukewarm, but most of it was untouched. Omar could not understand why, but a shiver went down his spine. Why did having everyone abandoning the mess in a hurry have him feeling like Abdi.

"Did you inspect the galley?" asked Omar.

Nadif nodded his head, "Haa, yes. The galley was clean. Just some of the food on the stove, but the stove was shut off. "

"Bal, this is what I want you to do, Nadif." Omar said to the ex-soldier. "Get some men together and scour the ship. Be careful, maybe there are some crew members still left. Report back to me as soon as finished or if you find something."

Nadif saluted and exited the mess hall like one leaving a diseased village. As the thought reached Omar's mind, he too rapidly left the mess hall. "I pray this is no plague ship," Omar thought.

Omar was outside the mess hall's doors and heading down a long corridor of the ship's interior when he saw the young boy Taban run towards him. Taban was completely out of breath by the time he reached Omar.

"Sayid..., sayid...," the boy panted.

"Calm down, Taban," Omar said comforting the gasping boy, "Catch your breath and then tell me what is so important."

After a few attempts to begin again in which Taban fell back to panting the boy finally leaned against a door and sucked in deep breaths of air. After a couple of minutes, Taban finally was composed enough to relay the message.

"Sayid," Taban said still breathing heavy. "The compass does not work. Neither does the GPS."

"Relax Taban," Omar said with a smile. "I all ready know this. That is why I told Abdi to use the compass off the fishing boats."

"Sayid, you do not understand," the boy said with fear escaping from his voice. "It is the compasses and the GPS from our boats I am talking about."

Omar was really beginning to get uneasy about being on this ship. He calmed himself so that the frightened boy would not panic further. "Taban, I will look into this. It is nothing. There maybe some electrical interference that is messing with the equipment. We will use the stars to navigate."

Taban smiled at Omar. The boy believed everything the pirate leader said. It was well known that Omar never betrayed his men and the men were fiercely loyal to Omar.

* * * * *

Omar returned to the bridge to consult with Abdi. The helmsman stared fixedly ahead. Beads of sweat ran down from his brow. Occasionally, Abdi reached up with one hand to wipe the sweat from his eyes.

Omar could hear Abdi say under his breath over and over again, "this is naxis. We are doomed."

"Abdi," Omar said to the fisherman. Abdi startled turned and looked at Omar. For a moment Abdi did not recognize his leader and stared at him with wide eyes.

"Abdi, relax. I am no laab here to take your soul," Omar said.

Abdi gave Omar a weak smile, "Maya, no sayid. You startled me, that is all."

Omar walked over next to the helmsman and studied the hand compasses that came from the skiffs. Like the Kohl's compass they too spun erratically. The handheld GPS system also flashed random numbers.

"Abdi, you are a good kalluunle like me. You will have to use the stars to guide us," Omar reassured the fisherman.

"Haa sayid," Abdi replied. "But the sky is overcast and I cannot see the stars."

Omar looked out the windows towards the sky. The cloud cover was so thick that even the moonlight could not break through. This was not good. In fact, this was very dangerous for they had no idea where they were going.

Omar reached for the microphone for the ship's intercom. He toggled it on and said to those below over the ship's speakers, "Men turn on the search lights and see if you can locate any land."

Within minutes at various points on the ship the searchlights lit up. As the high intensity beams played out from the ship all that reached their eyes was a very thick bank of fog. The fog acted like no fog Omar ever experienced. It surrounded the big cargo ship, but it did not cover it. Omar could easily see the ship's bow from the bridge on the aft but he could not see beyond it.

Omar quickly grabbed the ship's telemeter and pulled it to the ‘all stop' indicator. The large engines with in the ship brought the propellers to an abrupt halt. The large boat moved forward only by its inertia through the fluffy white mist.

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A scene from one of my favorite movies! Thanks Ranger Brad.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Wayward Inn Incident

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the offer from Crassus's messenger still fresh, Gaius knew that the senator would increase his pressure. Marcus Licinius Crassus was not a man who would accept 'no' for an answer. Thus, Gaius believed that this was a message from the fates to leave Rome for a while. However, he did not know where to go. He needed a believable excuse to leave the city, but he did not have one.

However, before he could go anywhere, he had some business to finish with Titus Aemilius Mancinus. However, he did not wish to be seen going there. Being seen with Titus could put the entire Marcus Villius Sextus incident on public display. Marcus had many enemies, and it was best if Rome did not know who performed this vendetta. It was bad enough that Titus came to his home that day.

Gaius watched the house from a distance for most of the evening. When he was sure Titus was home, and when it was well after dark, Gaius stole into Titus's villa. Titus was fast asleep in his bed when we was awoke with a start as Gaius sat on his chest.

"I do not recommend you screaming," Gaius whispered.

"Who are you? What do you want?" asked Titus in a hush.

"It is your friend Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius."

"Ferrarius? Have the fates turned upon me already?"

"Calm yourself. While I am here on business, you will likely survive the transaction."

Gaius freed Titus of his position under him, and sat next to him on his bed.

"There was a misunderstanding between us that needs to be straightened out," explained Gaius quietly.

"No there..." began Titus.

"I did not mean to imply that you needed to double my fee."

"Please," responded Titus with his hand up. "Let me explain."

"All right."

"When I went to your place this morning, I had every intention of doubling your fee."

"What?"

"That is why I had that amount with me. I was impressed with how you handled the entire affair."

"There was no need to pay extra."

"Please. Sextus took everything that I cared about -- my daughter -- and essentially my wife. All I have left is my money, and wealth does not mean anything without my loved ones."

"But..."

"No! My passions overcame me this morning. You were right. I felt the fates were cruel to me, but they were kind enough to allow me to get my revenge."

"The fates can be cruel," replied Gaius. "They were very hard on me until I went to work for them."

"I was in the moment this morning. I was blind to the good things they have done for me. You showed me the way, and I made several sacrifices to the gods today. In fact, I would pay you even more to give thanks to the fates."

"I cannot accept the excess you paid or any further gratuity."

"You have no choice. I will not accept what I gave you back."

"As you wish."

"The fates have convinced me to move on from this incident. I now plan to remarry, but in the meantime, I am going to purchase some new servants to help out around here."

"New servants?"

"Yes, I dispatched an agent this afternoon to travel to Campania to purchase some new house servants."

"Campania?"

"Naturally! They have the biggest and best slave market there."

"Perhaps I should travel to Neapolis."

"You should! A freedman like you needs a wife. You should go there and purchase one."

"If the fates permit it... For now, I will wish you a good evening."

Gaius silently made his way out the same way as he entered. When he reached the streets he began humming quietly. His business with Titus was successfully completed. Further, he had a destination and an excuse to travel. He would make the arrangement in the morning, and would depart the following morning.

Many would hire a wagon to travel the long distance to Campania. However, Gaius always traveled on foot. He put his necessities in a bag and slung it over his shoulder. Naturally, this included his dagger and his scimitar. It also included the money he received from Titus. It would go towards expenses along the road.

As dusk approached, Gaius found himself looking for a place to camp. However, an inn sounded quite inviting to him. He approached one that was strangely quiet for this time of year. When he asked about a room, the proprietor acted quite suspicious. Nonetheless, he was shown to a room for the night. Gaius ate his meal alone and went to bed early.

Gaius knew that the fates had brought him to this inn for a reason. All of the signs pointed to it. Thus, he kept his dagger and scimitar with him as he slept. All of his senses were alert as he lied in bed. The slightest sound awoke him. However, he would stay frozen there until sleep would take him again.

It was getting close to dawn when he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps entering his room. He stayed still listening intently. He calculated that three men had just entered his room. He still remained motionless. One of the men made a grunt just as was ready to jump on Gaius which was his signal to move.

Before rolling off the bed with his weapons, Gaius threw his blanket into the face of the man attempting to jump on him. The blanket in the face startled the man on the bed and before he could do anything, Gaius had his dagger in his left hand and his scimitar in his right.

Gaius worked his way to his feet as the man struggled with the blanket on the bed. Once free, the man on the bed briefly looked at Gaius trying to figure out what had happened. In his confusion, he watched as Gaius thrust his dagger through the man's eye. As Gaius removed the dagger, he put his hand over his eye and began screaming.

With the wails of pain, Gaius rolled over the man in the bed to where the other men stood frozen in awe. In one fluid motion Gaius unsheathed his scimitar and opened up the belly of one of the men. His dagger was in the throat of the other one before either men could react.

While holding his intestines, one of the men looked over as his partner fell down dead. He tried to ask for mercy, but Gaius's dagger was finishing the job that the scimitar started before he could utter a sound. The man on the bed was still screaming about his eye.

Gaius calmly walked over to the man, only to notice that it was the man from which he obtained the room.

"You took my eye!" yelled the man as he saw him.

"You run a terrible inn," replied Gaius as he finished the man off.

Gaius went through the entire inn looking for other patrons. Each room he entered had a story to tell. There were bloody bodies in most of the rooms. The possessions of these travelers were piled in one corner of their respective rooms.

Eventually, he found who he believed to be the real staff for the inn. They too had been brutally murdered. The scene explained a lot of things. It was clear that the fates had finally caught up with these men. Gaius carried the bandits out into the open to expose them to the elements. He might have to explain things a local magistrate, but he knew he had nothing to fear. Further, in the near future, the fates would have something else for him to do.

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Kalluunle

IV

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gulf of Aden: 0247 Hours

"Kalluunle?" Nadif asked as he poked his head onto the bridge. Omar was sitting in the captain’s chair staring out into the night fog. The pirate leader looked over to his lieutenant.

"Haa," Omar said, "yes."

"Kalluunle, we have searched the ship from bow to stern. There is no one aboard," the ex-soldier stated. "The crew seems to have just left before we arrived. Do you think it is a trap?"

"Haa, I do," Omar replied flatly. "But not one set by the world’s navies."

Nadif chuckled nervously, "Now, who is starting to sound like Abdi seeing a laab hiding in every corner."

Abdi gave Nadif a wounded look, "I told you that a ship with no crew was naxis."

"And I said it was not bad luck, but instead good luck, sanac," Nadif shot back. He too knew what one rotten apple of fear could do to an entire crew.

"If it is such sanac, then why are we stuck here on this ship," Abdi yelled back more in fear than in anger. "The equipment is broken and we are blind in the night!"

"Abdi, you are a good man," Omar finally said raising himself out of the chair. "When the sun comes out we will know which way is east. Then we can navigate at least that much."

"What good is that?" Abdi countered. "We do not know where we are. We can run aground or wind up in unfriendly waters."

"Abdi, we can send a skiff out ahead of us," Omar said calmly. "Just far enough off the bow so we can hear each other over the bullhorns. We will move only at two knots."

Abdi quieted down. What Omar said made sense, but his heart told him that this was beyond the realm of men. A ghost ship, in a ghost fog, lost in a ghost sea. If there was not a spirit or laab involved then what was?

Omar replaced himself into his chair. He looked over to Nadif and asked, "How is the rest of the crew doing?"

‘They are all scared, most are putting on a brave face," Nadif replied. "I have been keeping them busy so that they cannot think about it."

"That is good, Nadif," Omar said. "I want you and some of the men to get some sleep. We will have a lot of work to do when the sun rises."

"Haa kalluunle," Nadif said with a salute before leaving the bridge.

"Abdi, you should get some sleep too," Omar suggested.

Abdi shook his head, "Maya, no, sayid. I will stay here."

Omar figured that the man was too scared to leave the sanctuary of the bridge. Regardless, Omar positioned himself into the captain’s chair and fell asleep.

0757 Hours

"Kalluunie? Kalluunie?" the soft voice of Nadif slowly penetrated Omar’s subconscious. The pirate leader forced himself awake.

"Haa Nadif," Omar said groggily. "What is it?"

"The sun is up," the ex-soldier stated.

Omar stretched and lifted himself from the captain’s chair. He then walked over to the large windows of the bridge and looked outside. The sky was very dark. Only a small amount of light was filtering through the thick enveloping fog. The light appeared a little brighter on the starboard side.

"This is very peculiar, maya?" Nadif said walking up next to Omar.

"Haa, very peculiar," Omar nodded his head somberly. He was hoping with the sunrise the fog would lift. That obviously did not happen.

Abdi approached the two men. The young fisherman looked about with blatant fear painted on his face. "Naxis! Naxis!" he said frantically.

Omar grabbed the young man and shook him.

"Abdi, you need to calm down!" Omar shouted. Abdi froze and stared at Omar. The pirate leader never raised his voice to one of his crew. So when he finally did it snapped Abdi back to a more normal state of mind.

"I am sorry sayid," Abdi said in a small voice. The pirate then returned to his station at the helm.

Omar stroked his chin for a second and then turned toward Nadif. "Get two men together to guide us with one of the skiffs."

"Haa Kalluunie," Nadif saluted. "I shall ride in it personally. I will take Korfa."

"Dhurwaa, good," replied Omar.

* * * * *

Omar stood on the bow of the Kohl with a bullhorn in his hand. The oppressive fog wrapped the cargo ship in a thick blanket that allowed little light to filter through. It was so close that Omar could reach out his hand and touch it. Yet he did not. The mere fact that the mist did not cover the deck of the ship was strange in itself. But the feeling of dread kept Omar’s hand clasping tightly to the rail.

The telltale noise of one of the fishing boat’s engine could be heard approaching form the portside. Omar looked over the railing to see if he could glimpse the pirate’s skiff. Sadly, no matter how hard he strained his eyes they could not penetrate the fog.

"Nadif, are you nearly in position?" Omar said over the bullhorn.

"Haa kalluunie," Nadif’s voice boomed back over his bullhorn.

"Bal, head forward at two knots we will follow," Omar said over the horn.

"Haa kalluunie," Nadif said as the engine’s pitch increased on the fishing boat. The Kohl followed slowly behind.

"Kalluunie?" Nadif’s voice boomed back towards the ship. "We cannot see anything in this fog. Maybe we should increase our distance…What is that?"

Before Omar could inquire into what was going on a blood-curdling scream cut through the fog from the where the skiff was. A short burst of AK47 followed this briefly before falling ominously quiet.

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Remember that time you crapped 20 golf balls?

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Extortionist Incident - Part I

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the incident at the inn, Gaius had to spend some extra time in the town. Being only a days travel from Rome, it was a bustling little place. There was a government mansiones nearby where official travelers stayed. A magistrate was summoned from this place to investigate the scene at the inn.

The investigation was short, and Gaius was free to leave. However, it took most of the morning. He would not make it to the next way station if he traveled that day, so he would have to leave the following day. For his trouble, the magistrate got him a room at the mansiones for the night. He would not have to sleep in the inn where the murders occurred. However, he had to find something to do for the remainder of his afternoon.

Gaius wandered around for a bit, and found a seat under a tree to rest.

"Are you Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?" a man asked as he took a seat next to him.

"Who is asking?" Gaius replied.

"I know who you are," the man answered.

"Is that so? Who am I?"

"You fought in the Third Servile War on the slave side, and you are now on the run."

"If that were true, the only way you would know is if you too were a slave on the run or a deserter from the army."

"Let us just say that I am acquainted with someone who is one of those."

"Very well, what do you want of this Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?"

"He has skills which would be a great help for me."

"And in return for this help, he gets what?"

"I keep his secret."

"What if he does not agree to your terms?"

"Exposure -- which could lead to his untimely demise."

"Let me make sure I have this straight. If he does this job for you, he gets silence from you, but if he does not, he dies. Do I have that right?"

"In essence you understand the situation."

"And what if I am not Ferrarius? What then?"

"You are him all right."

"I suppose I need specifics of this job in order to make my decision."

"Oddly, the target goes by the name Gaius Cornelius Carrarius."

"It is quite a common name."

"This owner of a small cartwright guild is a barbarian slave on the run like you."

"Fixing carts is a good trade at a place like this."

"Be that as it may, he has dared me to expose him. That is what I was going to do, when I heard you were nearby."

"What does any of this have to do with the job you want done?"

"You are thick barbarian!"

"As you say..."

"For my silence, I want you to permanently silence Carrarius."

"That seems like an awful lot of trouble for a person of such inconsequential importance"

"Do not worry yourself about the nature of the job, are you going to do it or do I expose you to your new magistrate friend?"

"I suspect you want it done tonight."

"You are on the move. It would seem odd if you lingered."

"Since I have no choice...."

"Good," replied the man as he arose and walked away.

The first thing Gaius wanted to do was find out about this cartwright. It should be easy enough. He just walked to the shop and asked for him.

"I am Gaius Cornelius Carrarius. What can I do for you?"

"I just spoke with a man who claims he knows who you really are."

"You go back and tell that scoundrel that I am not leaving. He can crow all he wants."

"I am not here to collect. He sent me to kill you."

"What? But..."

"I find myself in a similar position as yourself. If I do not do as he asks, he will make it difficult for me."

"If you give into his extortion, he will just ask for more."

"I am aware of that. This is not my first dealing with such men."

"What do you want from me?"

"I want to know the person who knows your secret?"

"My secret? No one knows."

"There is not a single soul in the area that knows about your past?"

"Not that I am aware."

"Clearly, our friend has a list from someone. He has used his persuasive technique to extract some information from someone - an ex-slave or an army deserter."

"Not a soul here knows about my past."

"There are not a lot of people in the area. Do you know of someone who could be ruined if his secret were revealed?"

"There is Mettius Aedinius Primulus, but how could someone find out about that?"

"Secrets can have lives of their own. Do you know where I can find Primulus?"

"He has a villa east of here. He is powerful in the area, but he certainly does not know my secret."

"Perhaps, but he is my next lead."

Afternoon was beginning to break into evening when Gaius arrived at the villa of Mettius Aedinius Primulus. Mettius was lazily lounging under a tree until he spotted Gaius. At that point, he jumped up and started running.

"Help! Help!" he screamed as he ran and waved his arms frantically.

Gaius watched Mettius run away, and took his seat in the shade. Slaves from the fields came running to their master's aid only to find him being chased by no one. Despite his misgivings, he sent them back to work. Slowly and cautiously he returned to where Gaius was sitting.

"We meet again Primulus," began Gaius.

"Apollodoros -- my old friend. What are you doing here?" asked Mettius nervously.

"There is a name I have not heard for a long time," replied Gaius.

"Do you not go by that any more?"

"Not since the days with Spartacus."

"You were there? My memory is not what it used to be. So my friend, what is it that you want?"

"Someone in the area is blackmailing locals. They are using their secrets to obtain favors, money, influence, and the like. I naturally thought of you."

"I would never..."

"Succumb to extortion? That is not the Primulus that I know."

"What are you going to do?"

"Put a stop to it -- naturally."

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Kalluunle

V

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gulf of Aden: 0816 Hours

The entire pirate crew ran to join Omar at the ship’s bow to look down towards where the death scream came from. However, the thick blanket of fog obstructed any view from what happened down below.

Some men were calling out to Nadif and Korfa, but neither one returned their calls. Others looked at each other with wild eyes. Fear was now running rampant aboard the German cargo vessel Kohl.

Omar knew he had to act quickly before he lost his crew. "Men, men," he called out to his pirates. "It was an accident. The ship must have over run the skiff. That is all."

"Haa!" Asad threw his support to Omar. "Sayid is right. Taban, you and two men get in another boat and see if you can help Nadif and Korfu."

"Maya," Taban refused fearfully. "I will not leave this boat. There is a laab out there."

"That is just nonsense," Asad retorted. "You are just letting your fears overcome your senses."

"I will go!" Abdi shouted. "I told you that this was naxis. Even Nadif tried to convince me it was sanac and look where he is now. I will gladly leave the ship even if no one else will."

Just as Omar feared Abdi’s dire superstitions ran through the crew. Many of the stout pirates began arguing amongst themselves. Omar tried to calm everyone down, but it was no use. Not even with the help of Asad did the crew quiet down.

About a dozen men led by Abdi ran for the lines securing the two remaining fishing boats. Before Omar could stop them the men were in the skiffs and were now speeding away. They were not even interested in seeing if they could help Nadif.

Once the malcontents left the boat the remaining pirates stood in silence. They could hear the boats’ engines recede in the distance. But just as suddenly as it did with Nadif and Korfa the men in the departing skiffs began to cry out in fear and pain. The automatic fire from a dozen AK47s ripped through the air only to fall silent one by one.

The fog felt like it was becoming thicker. The white mist was becoming a malignant yellow accompanied by the foul smell of sulfur. The remaining pirates looked towards Omar for guidance. The pirate leader did not know what to do.

"Sayid, what do we do?" Asad asked.

Omar looked at the man for a few seconds before replying. "If we leave the ship we are doomed. I will continue to run the ship west until we hit land. Even if we run her ashore, we certainly can find shelter on land."

It was not the best answer, but the men accepted it. Omar went to the bridge and ordered the engines run at full speed. The Kohl tore through the water at its top speed. The fog continued to cling to the cargo ship as it ran in the direction that Omar believed west to be.

The remaining crew went below decks to either find food in the galley or to be alone in one of the crew cabins. With the ship’s equipment out of commission Omar did his best with dead reckoning until the sun reached its zenith around noon.

Omar held the helm in a death grip not allowing his hand to budge one inch lest he stray from his course. His teeth were clenched tight in his jaw and beads of perspiration dotted his brow. He focused his entire being in looking ahead into the fog, hoping to see some outline indicating land or some structure.

Asad walked onto the bridge with some sandwiches that he tried to offer to the pirate leader. However, Omar could not be torn away from his duty. He had less than a dozen men left and he determined that he would not lose them.

"Sayid, you must eat," urged Asad.

"Maya," Omar said tersely, "No, I have to get us to land."

"What is this?" Asad asked to break the uncomfortable silence.

"I do not know. Maybe there is a laab, spirit, or this may be naxis, bad luck," Omar said woodenly. These same thoughts have been plaguing his mind as well. "I am no prophet."

Asad sat in the captain’s chair munching lightly on a sandwich. "I remember this Ethiopian mercenary I once met." Asad said to no one in particular. "He always carried that Bible those Christians follow."

"Haa," Omar said. He did not hold too much to religion, even though he was raised a devout Muslim. However, having Asad speaking was better than staring into the sickly yellow fog that obstructed his view of the horizon.

"There was this one passage I remember him saying. I think it was in the back of their holy book. I do not know much about it. However, I remember these words and they have been coming to my mind often today," Asad continued. "And the sea shall give up her dead."

These words did not comfort Omar at all. In fact, when Asad mentioned them, a chill ran down his spine. Then out on the bow near the rail Omar noticed movement. At first it was slight and barely noticeable. Then it became blatantly obvious. The fog was starting to enclose over the ship. Furthermore, within the thin yellow veil Omar could see figures, human-like figures.

Omar grabbed the intercom microphone. "Attention all men!" he yelled. "Prepare to repel boarders!"

Asad jumped up at the announcement and looked out the windows. He too saw the encroaching fog and the figures within. Asad grabbed his AK47 and ran to the platform outside the bridge. His automatic assault rifle opened up on the fog. The bullets tore into the fog with no effect.

By now Omar could see the pirates running upon the deck. Some fired their weapons and others tried to grapple with the figures. It was useless. Once the fog reached the pirates, the figures shrouded inside would tear into the men. Hideous cries split the noxious air.

The fog slowly advanced towards the bridge. Asad continued his relentless fire. Omar willed the ship to shore, but the sea continued to play beneath the German cargo ship. The yellow fog now crept up towards the platform and Omar noticed the stench of sulfur overpowering him.

Omar watched helplessly as Asad fired frantically at a figure approaching him. When the pirate was out of ammo Asad tried to wrestle with the figure. It was hopeless. Asad cried out in agony as the figure tore the pirate apart like a facial tissue.

Omar backed against the bullet-riddled wall opposite the door. The fog seeped through and coalesced inside the bridge. A figure approached Omar. Omar knowing the futility of resistance still fired his AK47 into the creeping figure until it was empty.

Omar grabbed his knife and prepared to meet the figure in hand-to-hand combat. Once Omar jumped into the fog he had to fight an urge to retch. His eyes burned, yet he could see inside the bank of fog. There inside grinning at him stood a skeletal figure with outstretched arms and behind it even more skeletal figures. What stopped Omar was that behind the skeletal figures, he could see the broken body of Nadif shambling towards him.

The figures grabbed Omar and began to pull, twist, and break his body. Omar heard a horrendous scream tear through the air. Shortly before he succumbed to darkness, he realized the scream was his own.

* * * * *

AP: Today the missing German cargo ship Kohl was found in the Gulf of Aden. From the bullet holes found riddling the ship investigators believe the ship may have been taken by pirates. However, the ship full of very valuable cargo appeared to have everything aboard except the crew. The owners have not divulged if any ransom demands have been made by pirates from the region. The U.S. has decided to step up its presence in the area in order...

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I would be remiss if I didn't include this.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Extortionist Incident - Part II

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"What do you want from me Apollodoros?" asked Mettius Aedinius Primulus.

"I am sure it was you who gave my name out," replied Gaius.

"And...?"

"And, I would like you to return the favor."

"What do I get in return of this favor? No one would believe anything a barbarian like you would say -- especially after I tell them what I know about you."

"In exchange for your information, will not kill you."

"That is a good joke -- you are joking -- right? Right?"

Gaius just coldly stared at Mettius. Mettius began to squirm and sweat began to bead on his face. He was going to try to outlast Gaius, but Gaius knew the coward of the Third Servile War too well.

"All right!" exclaimed Mettius after a few moments. "You win. The man goes by Spurius."

"Is that all you have? No praenomina? No cognomina? How am I to find this person?"

"You do not find him. He finds you!"

"He already has. Now, I want to return the favor."

"Listen -- I spend all my time avoiding him. I have no interest in where he lives or who his friends are."

"And you know nothing about places to avoid."

"He is powerful and has influential friends. They will destroy me or even kill me!"

"You are wrong. A person like this has no friends. His acquaintances will cheer his demise -- not seek vengeance."

"You do not know that. His business could be quite lucrative. He may spread his wealth around."

"Very well," replied Gaius as he got to his feet. "I hope you sleep soundly."

"What? What is that supposed to mean?"

"I will see you around."

"Wait. Is that it?"

"I guess so."

"So it is farewell then?"

"Yes for now," replied Gaius as he began walking away.

"You were satisfied right?"

"What do you think?"

"I really do not know anything."

"If you say so," Gaius said without looking back.

"Wait!"

Gaius stopped and looked over his shoulder. "I am listening."

"Do you know that magistrate that investigated your little incident at the inn?"

"Good day to you Primulus. Sleep well."

"You never heard that from me!" Mettius yelled as Gaius began walking away again.

"I do not even know who you are," replied Gaius.

Mettius Aedinius Primulus slumped into the chair vacated by Gaius. Relief washed over him, but anxiety soon over came that. He thought a trip to the country was in order. He began making plans to leave in a few days. If there was going to be trouble, he did not want to be around.

It was dusk when Gaius made it back to town. He wandered around a little bit more, and then went to the mansiones for his evening meal. Gaius had a long day, and a good meal was most welcome.

While Gaius was eating, the magistrate entered. He was shocked to see Gaius eating his meal in peace. The magistrate watched him suspiciously for a few moments before beginning his own meal. He would occasionally look up at Gaius as he ate, but Gaius fully ignored him.

After getting his fill, Gaius got up and went to his room to rest. He had had a long day, and he had a long night in store for him. Thus, he wanted to get in a little rest while he could. At times he heard footsteps outside his door, but no one knocked or attempted to enter. The footsteps would just stop in front of his door, pause, and continue on a short time later.

Gaius rested for several hours and it was well into the night when he left his room. The magistrate peeked into the hall as he left, but Gaius pretended not to notice. Gaius walked outside for while. Unlike in Rome, it was quiet at this time of night. He took a seat under a tree, and reveled in the quiet sounds of the night.

A few hours later, the magistrate was awakened by a man sitting on his chest. He struggled and tried to scream, but Gaius was in full control of him. Gaius had one of his large hands covering the magistrates mouth to keep him quiet. In Gaius's other hand, he held his dagger which he showed to the magistrate.

"I have been doing this a lot lately," whispered Gaius admiring his dagger.

The magistrate struggled, but his struggles were in vain.

"You will listen first, and I will let you say something on your behalf. However, if you try to scream, cry out, or even talk loudly, you will be dead before you emit one syllable. Is that clear?"

The magistrate nodded.

"It has been brought to my attention that you have used people's secrets against them. Further, you have used these secrets to collect other secrets. In this way, you have a large collection of people from which to extort money, influence, and the like. A list in which I was added today."

The magistrate shook his head in denial as best he could.

"In your denial, you have confirmed my suspicions. An innocent man would be confused by such a twisted set of facts. Thus, I want the list."

The magistrate did not know what to do.

"Now, I am going to allow you to speak on your behalf. Do not bother denying the truth of these accusations. It would be a waste of your final breath. However, I will allow you to say anything you wish. Remember, anything above a hushed tone will be quickly squelched. So, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"You work quickly Ferrarius," whispered the magistrate. "or should I call you Apollodoros? Or, do you have other names? In any event, I am impressed with your skills."

"I indeed have many names, but thank you for your kind words. Now about that list..."

"Why would I give you my list? What could you possibly offer me to give you the list?"

"You are right," replied Gaius as he cut the magistrate's throat. "I would have spent my last words on something more repentant -- to each his own."

Gaius left the magistrates room as silently as he had entered. He went out to find the magistrate's cohort, and then he hoped he could still leave in the morning.

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