July 2009 Archives

The God Wars

Chapter Eleven:

The Gift

By Dwayne MacInnes

The American soldiers and some of the British sailors, or Otherworlders as the locals called them, had done much in the last week to clean up the rubble of Zakrostas. The army cleared the streets of debris and rebuilding had begun. They also removed the huge numbers of corpses by either burning or burying them.

The citizens of Zakrostas were at first hesitant as to what to make of these strange people from the sea. Mina did much to help win them over. She quoted the old prophecy of men in iron boats and told them that one of the ship's names was the Olympus. After that, the people of Zakrostas welcomed their liberators as heroes, some even as gods.

With the lack of housing, due to the utter destruction of the city, tents were set up as temporary shelters for the citizens to live in. As more refugees returned to their city, housing was becoming a crisis. There were few buildings left undamaged from the recent battle.

The language barrier was a big obstacle at first. However, between Lt. Greer and Mina many of the Otherworlders and the people of Zakrostas learned the other's language well enough to get basic ideas across. The language schools that were established proved very popular.

General Crist wasted no time in repairing the breach in the wall and laying out the best defensive measures possible. Although, they had plenty of rifles they did not have enough ammunition to press an offensive. It would be some time before they would be able to manufacture their own bullets not to mention grenades and shells for the tanks, the artillery, and the ships.

Crist also strictly rationed the activities of all vehicles to conserve as much fuel as possible. The only oil they had was in the tanker and they did not have any refining facilities. Some of the engineers believed that they could convert some of the vehicles to burn alcohol.

The men were proving to be very ingenious. They already had a blacksmith shop with a Bessemer converter to make pig iron into steel. The introduction of the modern saddle, bridle, and stirrup proved extremely popular with the Atlanteans. Another group had already begun construction of a watermill on the Skalandos River south of the city. The mill would prove extremely valuable in powering the first factories planned for the city.

General Crist had no problem assuming control over the city. It appeared that the city's leaders were the first to evacuate and headed for the capital city of Atlantis. The remaining military forces of Zakrostas were eager to learn from the Otherworlders. The U.S. forces taught them how to fire the rifles and modern military tactics.

"We've been knocking over every latrine looking for saltpeter," one of the soldiers in charge of making gunpowder explained to the general. "Until we can get better facilities up and running we will be only able to make black powder. This I believe will be in conjunction with the introduction of the muskets planned to be manufactured."

Crist nodded his head. The muskets would be the easiest weapon manufactured at this time. Plus, the more weapons made and put into the hands of the local military the better off they were. He had already concluded that only the Otherworlders would use the M1s unless there was an invasion.

The removal of the latrines was also proving to be expedient in another matter. The medical staff on the Respite determined that the sanitation conditions of Zakrostas were deplorable. The construction of a modern sewage system was already in progress with the reconstruction of the city. With it was planned running water in every household.

Greek Phalanx

Corporal Manders kept watch on the south wall. The sun was high in the sky and its hot rays beat down on him relentlessly. The smell of human and animal waste permeated the air. The corporal mused that Homer never talked about the omni-present smell of sewage. He would rather be anywhere but on sentry duty. However, it was his turn and so he stood on the wall looking to the south.

At first, he thought it was just a cloud, but then the dust cloud grew larger as time moved on. Corporal Manders called for the officer on duty to confirm what he was looking at. Captain Miller took out his field glasses and focused on the gathering dust cloud.

Down the road marched about five hundred men wearing bronze armor and armed with the long spear. One man rode a horse in front of the small army. Behind him marched a standard-bearer with the symbol of a double-headed axe on the standard.

The captain quickly called his superior who then passed it on to General Crist. The general wasted no time in mounting the wall to observe the procession himself. By now, the army was within half an hours march to the city's southern gate.

The general quickly assembled some men to prepare to meet the delegation outside the gate. For a show of force, he would ride in one jeep, Greer and Mina would ride in another and two M4 Sherman tanks would drive along with them. The hastily assembled reception party drove out of the gate fifteen minutes after Crist noticed the delegation approaching the city.

As the quartet of vehicles approached, the advancing army stopped. The man riding the horse had a hard time retaining control over the terror-stricken animal. Even some of the soldiers hedged back waiting for the first chance to run.

Sergeant Maxwell the general's driver halted the jeep several yards in front of the Atlantean army. The tanks pulled up next to the jeep and halted as well. General Crist and the two guards riding along with him and the driver left the vehicle. The guards had their Garands ready in case they needed a show of force. Although the tanks would be much better at it than two men with .30 rifles.

Lt. Greer hopped down from his jeep which was parked behind the general's; as usual, Mina escorted him. They walked a few paces behind Crist and the guards. When the five people were a few paces away from the man on the horse they stopped. The well-muscled rider wore a kilt and a bronze breastplate, under his highly polished helmet with a long black horsehair plume the dark tan face of a man in his thirties looked down on them. His hair and short-cropped beard were black and his piercing eyes were brown.

The man on the horse said something to the Americans, and Greer quickly translated, "Greetings, God killers! I am King Podaistas and I welcome you to my kingdom."

General Crist spoke to the king through Greer and Mina, "Greetings king, I am General Crist and we come in peace and friendship."

"I hear that you and your metal monsters have defeated the army sent by the gods to punish us. I also hear that you have slain the mighty king of the seas, King Poseidon. My people have been spared and all owe you their lives," King Podaistas said in a mighty voice.

Crist smiled and said, "Your Greatness, it is our sworn duty to protect the innocent from oppressors. On our world, we were embarking on such a mission. We ended up in your kingdom by mistake. Yet our mission is still the same."

The king high on his wide-eyed mount looked down on the general and his men. Then in a loud voice for all to hear the king stated, "In payment for your deeds I grant you the city of Zakrostas and all the lands north of the Skalandos River and east of the city to the land of the Asgards of the kingdom of Ragnarok east of the Dragonspine Mountains."

Gifted Land

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For the next several Fridays, we're going to bring you something special.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Crassus Messengers Incident

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The views around Terracina were well known. The area was very much coveted by many wealthy patricians who had villas in the area. Further, there were the famous mineral springs known as Neptune's waters. There were lots of places Gaius wished to see while he was there; however, he was behind schedule so things would have to be sacrificed.

Gaius left at dawn in the hopes of making up some time. He had just begun his journey when he noticed he was being followed. It was a group of six well armed men. When he slowed, they slowed. When he went faster, they kept up. They were definitely not travelers. Without a doubt, they were following him.

There was only one thing for Gaius to do, and that was wait until they made their move. He would know what they wanted soon enough. He would have to be careful. They could be setting him up for an ambush. He would ride with all of his senses on alert. If the soldiers behind him began to close in, he was determined to be ready.

He went along for a while when he noticed two men waiting along the road. The men behind him kept their distance. Nonetheless, Gaius was poised for whatever would happen next.

"Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?" shouted one man.

"Yes," replied Gaius as he stopped his horse.

"Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus sends his regards."

"If you get the chance, you must return my good wishes to the Senator," Gaius replied as he noticed the armed men behind him had also stopped.

"We shall certainly do that."

"Very good! Then I shall be on my way."

"Not so fast Ferrarius -- or should I say Apollodoros?"

"You can say whatever you wish. No one is stopping you."

"The Senator was hoping that you would reconsider his offer."

"That is very generous of the Senator; however, I prefer the way things currently stand."

"You do not seem to understand the danger you are currently in."

"Apparently not, because I do not see anything dangerous."

"Do you not see the six men behind you waiting for our signal?"

"Those men? They are yours? They do not look dangerous to me."

"You are out numbered eight to one."

"Do not leave my horse out. She is very sensitive about these things."

"To joke in the face of mortal danger shows great hubris."

"I am in mortal danger?"

"The Fates will bring you down because of your hubris."

"I work for the fates. This is something the good Senator refuses to acknowledge. He cannot outbid the Fates."

"He can destroy all that you love."

"No he cannot."

"You feel nothing for the smiths under your employ?"

"Why would I care for slaves?" asked the lying Gaius.

"Do you not care for your dwelling in Rome?"

"Surely you jest! Have you seen that hovel?"

"We can expose you as a runaway slave Apollodorus!"

"You do not seem to understand. The Fates took all that I have ever cared about. Nothing means anything to me now. I do only what the Fates wish. Working for Senator Crassus would require me to stop working for the Fates. This is something I just will not do."

"No matter what you do or where you go, the Senator will track you down."

"I am sure that is true."

"Not to mention that you are an easy man to track. We just follow the trail of corpses that you leave behind."

"It is the nature of things when you work for the Fates."

"We have been instructed to not let you continue without agreeing to the proposal."

"There are two problems with that statement. First, I already said that I would never agree. Second, you are unable to stop me."

Before the Senator's messenger could draw his sword, he and the silent envoy were cut open by Gaius's scimitar. They fell to the ground with a thud.

Gaius looked back at the soldiers that were following him. They looked confused. They had not been given any sign to advance, and the leaders of their group were not longer visible. Gaius decided to ride towards them.

The confusion played into Gaius's hands. With their indecision, four of them rode away from the advancing Gaius. The remaining two were frozen with indecision. Gaius rode between the pair with his sword drawn but across his lap.

With a puzzled look on their faces, Gaius swung his scimitar and sliced them both open. With a few more paces, he smacked their horses on the rear. The dieing men on horseback went galloping off. After several steps from their horses, both men fell. Gaius watched over his shoulder.

The four men that galloped off, obtained their desired distance and turned around. They watched as their comrades fell from their horses. Three of the men drew their swords and charged at Gaius. The remaining man galloped away.

Gaius stood his ground as the three men rode hard towards him. Closer and closer the three men galloped. The mounted Gaius remained where he was. The three men roared at him. Gaius stayed quiet. At the last instant, Gaius pulled his horse to one side. He remained out of reach of the soldier's short swords. However, one man was within reach of his longer scimitar.

That man's arm was cut from his shoulder to his wrist. He dropped his sword and screamed in pain. He pulled on the reins, and his horse threw him to the ground. The remaining men, turned around and watched as their colleague tumbled off his horse. The impact with the ground and his head killed him instantly. His comrades once again charged at Gaius, and once again Gaius stayed where he was.

Both men had their swords in their right hand and the reins of their mounts in the left. Thus, as Gaius sat between the men, only one could possibly reach him with a short sword. Thus, Gaius parried the thrust of the man with the sword close to him and sliced open the neck of the other rider.

The remaining fighter witnessing this, attempted to ride off. However, Gaius took off right behind him. The tired mount was no match for the somewhat rested mare under Gaius. Gaius caught up with remaining soldier and cut him down.

Gaius was getting tired of all the battles with no reward. Thus, he gathered up the horses, and led them to the next waypoint. He made a tidy sum of money when he sold them to the local innkeeper. He was tired, but he decided to ride to the next stop along the way before resting for the day. He was going to be in trouble once Crassus heard the news, but he was not going to worry about that for the moment.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twelve:

Farmer Militia

By Dwayne MacInnes

Knopso and Thelos Map

The village behind Theena and her ragtag group of militia was burning. Thick gray smoke billowed up into the air. Ares and his bloodthirsty horde had just overrun the village. The farmers turned militia was no match for the god of war and his minions of cutthroat mercenaries. The attackers quickly overcame the village's defenses and the defenders fought tenaciously hoping to buy some time for the women and children to evacuate south.

Now all that remained of the village of Knopso's defenders was Theena and six militiamen. The tired warriors hurried south ahead of the ravishing army of Ares. It appeared that Ares was taking his time heading for Zakrostas torching every village and hamlet on his way. The war god's scorched-earth policy did not even spare the fields of ripening grain or the livestock.

It appeared that Ares chose this route over that used by the previous invasion by the minotaurs and cyclopes because the villages were untouched. He had deliberately gone out of his way in order to wreak as much destruction as possible.

Theena looked at the sky. The sun burned in an ominous blood red through the smoke obstructing its view. Black ravens and gangly-necked vultures were gathering across the countryside for the meal that the god of war was providing. It was no mere coincident that Ares and vultures were associated together. Because often where you found one, the other was not far behind.

"Teukros," Theena ordered. "Run ahead to the next village warn them that Ares is on the march and his bloodlust runs high. Ask if they have any militia that would help us to slow down Ares advance. Then make sure that all refugees head for Zakrostas or Atlantis itself."

The young teenager looked at Theena with a tired expression on his blood-smeared and soot-stained face. He still held the spear he had fought with in Knopso it was his only weapon. The youth nodded his head silently; he was too exhausted to speak -- let alone to run to the next village. Yet Teukros summoned the last reserves of his strength and began to lope down the trail to Thelos the next village.

Theena looked at the five men that remained. They too were all exhausted and more farmer than soldier. However, they knew if they failed in slowing Ares' advance, their family and loved ones would be put to the sword.

"There is a pass through the Tekos Hills further south of here. We may be able to slow them down there if we hurry," Theena said.

The farmers accepted Theena's authority. Even though it was not common, women sometimes fought next to the men in combat. With all the village leaders either dead or fleeing, Theena quickly took control of the strategy of the combat. Because of her able command, the farmers actually succeeded in slowing down the advancing horde long enough for the villagers to flee. However, it came at a high price. There were now only seven combatants left out of the 136 that began the fight.

Ares: The God of War

Pheidas rode along with his band of bandits that owed their allegiance to Ares. The war god was always good at providing valuable plunder when he set out for war. Even now, a horde as never seen on the continent before was marching southward to destroy the Atlantean city of Zakrostas. The rumor was that they might hit the Atlantean capital itself -- the city of Atlantis.

The pillaging and plundering would be great. For centuries to come, the poets would tell the story of Ares and his army of mercenaries, bandits, and renegades. Pheidas planned to earn himself a line or two in the epic poem that would inevitably result.

For the moment, Pheidas and his mounted men were to scout ahead of the main advance. The village of Knopso surprised everyone with how effective the farmers fought. The outcome was a forgone conclusion and all the farmers did was to prolong their agony.

Men trotted their horses along the dusty trail. Many of the bandits wore a mask over the face. It was not to hide their identities, but to filter out the smoke and dust that choked the air. If Pheidas pushed hard enough, his men could make Thelos in time to pillage it before they lost the sun. He had the numbers and the men were eager. Hence, he started to pick up the pace and kicked his horse into a gallop. The band following him did likewise, kicking up huge cloud of dust in their wake.

* * * * *

Theena looked to the northwest where the road turned from Knopso. She could spy the telltale cloud of dust of a cavalry unit on the gallop. She signaled to the three men on the opposite hill by raising her spear and waving it back and forth. Then she dove behind a boulder and looked towards the two men with her.

"Do you think this will work?" asked a burly farmer, he had a dirty and bloody bandage on his head.

"Iamenos," Theena said. "There is no guarantee. But, this should slow them down."

"If the gods are willing, we may actually survive," Oros a smaller and older farmer replied.

"Forget the gods," Theena spat, "they have forsaken us. We must look to our own devices."

There had not been as much time as Theena would have liked to prepare. Nevertheless, she put the men to work as soon as they reached the pass. The men surpassed themselves by working so hard and quickly. They had to be on their last reserves of strength. They had fought a pitched battle, undergone a forced march, and still were able to accomplish many of the tasks that Theena demanded of them at the pass.

* * * * *

Pheidas rode his mount hard. He had hoped that his men would be able to overcome a few straggling refugees from Knopso before they reached Thelos. Although, they did not have much time, they could still squeeze in a little fun before they sacked the village.

Pheidas smiled when he saw the pass for it marked the midway point between Knopso and Thelos. The men were making very good time and the horses were still strong enough to gallop even further.

The bandit leader raised his spear over his head and circled the tip before aiming it to the pass. The men gave a loud cheer and race after their leader. Their bloodlust was at its fever pitch, and the men could not wait to ransack another village.

The pass was only a quarter of a mile long and Pheidas was just coming out the other side when a rockslide tumbled down in front of him. Pheidas pulled his horse to a halt and nearly ended up unhorsing himself in the process. Dirt and rocks rained down between the bandits and the exit.

Pheidas wheeled his horse around; he scanned the hilltops for any partisans. What he saw was a spear flying towards him, and then striking him in the chest. His blackened bronze armor did little to halt the force from the spear. Before he tumbled from his horse, he witnessed a woman on the hill smiling to see her aim was good. Pheidas fell from his mount and spilled his lifeblood into the thirsty road.

The other bandits gave a cry and some tried to leave from the other end. However, another rockslide closed it off as well. The riders wheeled about on their horses, the hillsides of the pass were too steep to climb quickly and a few spears and arrows rained down on them.

Several men were unhorsed as the projectiles pierced their armor leaving them dying in the dirt road. The bandits were desperate and some dismounted and tried to scrabble up the rocky slopes. Logs, rocks, and few arrows fell upon them killing many. However, their numbers were too great and they were eventually able to reach the summits.

Both sides were exhausted from the efforts to either gain the top of the hill or the attempt to forestall the ascent of the bandits. A fierce hand-to-hand combat resulted when the two sides met. Even though they again fought tenaciously and gave better than they received, the militia was finally overwhelmed.

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The next stop in our tour.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Distressed Traveler Incident

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Gaius was beginning to resign himself to taking much longer on this trip than he anticipated. Further, with the threats he had gotten from his last encounter, his place in Rome may no longer exist. Thus, he should not have to worry about his trip taking longer than expected. He was not quite sure what he would find at the slave market in Campania anyway.

His excuse was to find more house servants, and this often implied finding a wife. However, he did not believe that he would actually purchase any slaves on this trip. However, if his shop was destroyed, he might perhaps purchase a smith or two. Nonetheless, his main purpose was to get out of Rome until the demands from Crassus died down. With his most recent treatment of Crassus's messengers, it may be wise for him to stay away longer than planned.

He was beginning to resign himself to experiencing some sort of adventure on a daily basis, when he made it to the first stop without incident. He also made it to the second waypoint without anything occurring. Certainly, something would happen before making it to his goal for the day. He was shocked when he rested at the inn on his final stop for the day, and he did not have to kill anyone. Moreover, he did not even encounter anyone who knew him or wanted to speak with him.

He was quite shocked at that string of non-events. It had been quite a long string of days with something happening, he was taken aback by the uneventful day. He was extra wary the next day. He was thinking that perhaps all his tasks had been completed when a distressed traveler came onto the road.

"Help!" the panicked man cried. "Help!"

"How can I help?" asked Gaius calmly.

"Some men are after me," the stranger replied.

"Why?" asked Gaius.

"I think they want to rob me."

"Is that so."

"Yes. So are you going to help?" asked the man looking around nervously.

"I will see what I can do."

"Great! Lets go!"

"We are not going anywhere?"

"What? I thought you said you would help me."

"I certainly will try, but what does that have to do with getting out of here?"

"They will be along any moment."

"And?"

"And ... I do not want to be here when they come."

"What does that have to do with me?"

"You said you would help me."

"And I will, but what does that have to do with running away?"

"They will kill me."

"I guarantee that they will not."

"I hope the gods will keep you to that because here they are."

A group of twelve men came onto the Appian Way. Three of them were mounted, but the remaining nine were on foot.

"At last we caught up with you Servius," stated one of the mounted men.

"You best leave," stated Servius boldly. "I am under the protection of this man."

"Step aside stranger," replied the mounted man. "This is none of your affair."

"He has given me his word that you will not kill me. He has sworn by the gods, and he has defeated many opponents in groups larger than yours!"

Gaius looked at Servius with a cocked look of wondering. However, he continued to be silent. The mounted leader waved toward his men, and the men began to flank the pair of men. However, they did not attempt to completely surround the two men.

"You will not bluff your way out of this one Servius."

"We are not afraid of you!" shouted Servius. "We have been in tougher spots than this."

Again, Gaius looked at Servius with a raised eyebrow.

"Why is it that we have never seen you with this man before?"

"We fought together in the war. We were just catching up when you and your men arrived."

"War? Which war?"

"Why the Third Servile War of course."

Gaius stared hard at Servius. Had he known this man before? He did not recognize him, but he could have been in one of the ranks. Most of those that fought, knew him, but he certainly did not know everyone. He was trying to place him as the conversation continued.

"Yeah! Sure! What side did you fight on? The slaves? Were you two both close personal friends with Spartacus?"

"Of course not! We fought under the Consulship of Crassus. The senator will vouch for us."

"Enough of this!" shouted Gaius who now knew that Servius was bluffing. "It is true that I have given my word that you will not kill him. Thus, if you wish to say something -- say it and be gone."

"Your lapdog can speak," shouted the leader of the group.

"You should see him fight! I watched him as he personally killed forty men by himself."

"Get them!" shouted the leader.

The unmounted men cautiously moved towards the two men. They had their swords drawn. The men on horses stayed where they were. Gauis pulled his scimitar and put his horse between the advancing men and Servius. With a flourish of his weapon, the men stopped their advance.

"By the gods, I said you will not kill him!" shouted Gaius pointing his sword at Servius.

Gaius, spun his horse and the men looked towards the mounted men for orders. However, before anything was said, Servius's head was separated from the rest of his body. The body collapsed with a thud and his head rolled a bit away. The men stood there in awe as Gaius wiped his blade off.

"Your hunt for this man is over," stated Gaius. "You may go."

"Do you know who that was?" asked the leader.

"I only met him moments ago; however, his lies did not go unnoticed."

"There is a big reward for his head," replied the leader.

"Then take it with my compliments."

"May I ask your name?"

"No you may not," replied Gaius as he made his way past the men and continued his journey.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirteen:

Amazon of Knopso

By Dwayne MacInnes

"...the airfield is now 90% complete," Colonel Jenkins briefed General Crist inside the building that had now officially become the general's headquarters. "We have also started to address the need for paper. As you know, these people have not advanced that far. So, we are planning on another mill for lumber and then making a paper plant down river.

"We have also set up many of the outposts you wanted to the north and east. Some have radios and those that don't, we plan to set up telegraphs."

"That is good," the general replied looking over the report the colonel just presented to him.

"We have been hearing the locals referring to 'naphtha'. Our historians claim that is an ancient Greek word for petroleum or possibly even pitch. We have dispatched a field crew to look into it," Colonel Jenkins added.

"That is some of the best news I've heard all day," General Crist smiled. "Once we get the refinery going we will need to start producing various fuels."

"Well, sir," Jenkins replied. "We aren't sure for certain what it is yet. However, we have located a seam of coal and there is a small iron mine to the north as well."

"How are we doing with wiring this place up?" the general asked.

"The Olympus will be able to provide electricity once the wires are strung," the colonel said.

"Sir?" the colonel asked a bit uncomfortably.

"Yes, colonel," Crist looked up from the papers on his desk to Jenkins.

"It is damn strange is it not?"

"You will have to be more specific colonel," Crist responded.

"Well, the king...er, what's his name..."

"Podaistas," Crist offered.

"Yes, sir. King Podaistas just giving us a huge tract of his property," the colonel said. "It strikes me as strange. We liberated his people and his city; you'd think he'd just thank us and have us move along."

"He has actually made a rather shrewd move," General Crist explained. "Think about it. To the far north somewhere, there is Mount Olympus where the gods live. The same gods -- I remind you -- who sometimes just come south to slaughter his people. Now, he not only has given us land to make sure we are available to repel any future attacks. He has also established a buffer zone. The gods can't get to his realm without first passing through ours."

The colonel thought for a few seconds before breaking into a smile. "He sure loved those gifts you gave him."

The general smiled as well. The king loved the new horse gear including the stirrups. Not to mention that he also loved the M1 Garand, which after a few lessons, the king proved to actually be a decent marksman. The best gift though proved to be the case of brandy. Some men found the case in one of the cargo vessels and Crist reasoned it was bound for some European monarch anyway. Moreover, it helped establish the beginning of a trade route between the two.

Atlantis Map

Sokos was now the leader of the bandits after Pheidas died in the ambush a few days back. Many of his men were reluctant to continue the road south. Even Sokos remembered the carnage at the pass; the farmer militia killed 23 of his men. Worse still was when he and his men reached the crest of their hill and dispatched the three men there they could see the combat on the opposite hill.

The bandits had killed the two men on the hill but the woman fought like a seasoned warrior. Her sword and spear flashed and none of the bandits could touch her. She actually fought eleven men at once, the entire force of bandits on that hill. Sokos felt helpless like the other men with him when they watched their companions die one by one by either her sword or spear.

When the last bandit died with the spear through the throat, the woman looked over at the bandits on the hill opposite her. Sokos felt a chill run down his spine as he remembered staring into her blue eyes. Her face was smeared in gore and her brown hair was matted with blood. The militia woman glared at the bandits, and they could feel the hatred she bore them. In that one glance, they all felt like she would personally kill each one of them.

The woman then quickly retrieved her spear out of the hapless bandit whose throat it pierce and then retreated into the woods lining that side of the road. The bandits were hesitant to descend their hill and then climb the one the woman was just on. They had all seen how well she fought. The men heard stories of the Amazons and feared ever to cross one of the warrior women's path.

The story of the Amazon of Knopso, as the men dubbed the militia woman, spread through the army. Many of the men prayed to meet up with her and show her who the true masters of arms were. However, all the bandits who did witness her prowess with arms did not even joke about it. Even with Ares riding with them, they all feared to meet the woman again.

So, it was at first with great relief when the scouts reached Thelos to find it utterly abandoned. The livestock was gone, the villagers torched their own fields and even the village was in flames. The populace took everything they could, and what they could not carry, they burned.

However, as the army reached the next village and the one after that, they discovered that the inhabitants destroyed everything in the same manner as Thelos. At first, the army did not give this much thought until their supplies started to run low. The foragers were not finding anything on their forays. The stores the army brought with them would not last much longer.

Regardless, Ares drove his army south across the blackened plains. None dared to complain in front of the war god for fear of facing his wrath. Ares always found those few who tried to desert. He made sport with them in front of the army before he killed them.

Sokos was now learning that scorched earth could work both ways and he did not like the way in which it was going.

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Belinda Carlisle takes us to our next stop.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Old Friend Incident - Part I

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Servius turned out to be a wanted man. He was a swindler who was wanted by many a rich family. Gaius had served those families as well as the fates when he killed him. Further, he was true to his word, as none of the men chasing Servius killed him.

One benefit of the incidents that happened between towns was no one ever asked questions about them. If you killed someone in town, there were people who would question you on the events. However, in the wilderness, people died regularly. Thus, Gaius never had to explain how he had come to kill someone.

Gaius continued to ride his horse south along the Appian Way. After his latest incident, he made it to the next town along the road and decided to have an extended rest there. In fact, he was still attempting to decide if he should even return to Rome. Thus, he became less concerned about making good time. In any event, Formia was an excellent town to linger.

A coastal town, Formia was a seaside resort for the wealthy Roman citizens. Thus, it had plenty to offer someone who had money. Since Gaius had obtained a nice bundle from the sale of a few wandering horses whose owners met untimely deaths, Gaius could linger in style.

After putting up his horse for the day, Gaius wandered around the town.

"Oirpata -- is that you?" asked a man about the same age as Gaius.

"Tarsua?" Gaius exclaimed as he embraced the old man.

"I thought you were dead," the two men said simultaneously.

"I fought hard to give everyone time to get away, but I was captured. So, I did not know how everyone faired." explained Gaius.

"You did a good job," replied Tarsua. "However, the Romans returned a year later. That is when I was captured."

"Have you been in this area the entire time?" asked Gaius.

"Unfortunately no. My master is visiting here. We live near Pompeii."

"How is living there?"

"Because of the volcano, the ground is quite fertile. Our crops do quite well."

"Volcano? Aren't you concerned about that?"

"The old mountain grumbles occasionally, but Vulcan is not active much there."

"It is odd that we are not speaking in the old tongue."

"It has been too long since I spoke it."

"I had almost forgotten that I was called Oirpata."

"No one has called me Tarsua in quite a long time. I am called Caprimulgus now."

"You milk the goats?"

"It was my first job. I am now the lead food preparer for my master."

"I go by Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius."

"You are a freedman?"

"I suppose you could say that."

"Do you have your own smithing guild?"

"I hope so. I do not know if it still exists since I began this journey."

"Was there trouble?"

"Of a sort. It is why I came on this journey."

"Is Alanius with you?"

"We were separated long ago," Gaius said with a longing in his voice.

"Was she captured with you?"

"Yes."

"Did you never see her again?"

"No -- we did see each other again."

"Was there too much time in between?"

"No."

"Did your love not survive?"

"No -- it does."

"Does -- is she still alive?"

"No."

"Do you know that for sure?"

"Yes."

"How did it happen?"

"It is quite a long story."

"...and you would rather not tell it."

"That is true."

"I am sorry to have asked."

"Granicus and Castus, who were a couple of Gaulic warriors, wished to keep the slaves fighting against the Romans. They were obtaining much plunder and wealth, and had little to return home to. However, there were thousands of women and children that wished to return home. Thus, Spartacus asked me to lead 10,000 slaves out of Rome while he continued the fight."

"Alanius was one of these?" asked Tarsua.

"She was," replied Gaius. "During the war, we freed many individuals which included Alanius. She joined us after we defeated Tremellius Scrofa near Petelia. She was one of his servants. She was warn and bedraggled, but as beautiful as ever. She shined like the moon when we were reunited."

"You do not have to continue."

"We made it all the way across the mountains and back home. Everything had changed, but we were home. More importantly, we were free. Nonetheless, I had obligations to my comrades fighting back in Rome. I had to leave my love, but I promised to return. She would not let me leave. She begged and cried. I had to leave, but she followed. I asked her to stay, but she would not. She was in no shape to travel, and the road back would be much more dangerous than the road home. Still, she would not stay behind. I had no choice but to bring her back with me."

"She died on the return trip..." stated Tarsua sadly.

"Yes."

"Was the war over by the time you returned?"

"Yes."

"So you are not really a freedman after all."

"No."

"This smithing thing is just a front."

"I suppose that is true."

"What do you really do?"

"I perform favors for the Fates."

"What sort of favors?"

"In exchange for a less miserable life, I do whatever the Fates wish me to do."

"Does that involve killing?"

"Sometimes."

"How do you know who to kill?"

"I know."

"So if the Fates wanted my master dead, you would do that?"

"If that was the task put before me, then yes."

"How do you know if the Fates wish someone dead?"

"I know."

"My master stated that I would be freed upon his death."

"No!"

"I would have my freedom."

"No," repeated Gaius firmly.

"How do you know that the fates did not bring us together for this to happen?"

"I do not know..."

"So?"

"I will look into it."

Gaius was conflicted. Was he being tested? Which direction was he to go? Was he supposed to kill his long-time friend's master? Was it just a favor? He would have to look hard into this matter. It would take some time.

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The God Wars

Chapter Fourteen:

Cultural Exchange

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Crist was thankful that the soldiers and sailors that ended up trapped in this world with him were mostly draftees and volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds. It was like bringing almost every little piece of knowledge from the 20th century with him. There were machinists, carpenters, farmers, electricians, miners, bankers, etc. all making up the army and naval forces. Not to mention that there were several technical manuals and science books on the ships.

His diverse group was already making sweeping changes to Atlantis. A month ago, these people did not know anything about steel, now they were producing it. A banking system was also established, but the idea was still hard for the natives to grasp. The Americans and British built several churches and a Jewish synagogue. The Zakrostians were flocking to the services. Many of the natives were converting as well. It was not hard to believe seeing as how the gods they worshiped tended to kill and enslave them.

One of the biggest changes was the sense of democracy Crist introduced. The Atlanteans remembered their wars long ago with Athens and their democratic government. There, every man could vote on every issue. Further, the government tended to be large with an enormous ruling body. However, the system of a representative democracy or the republic seemed more manageable and acceptable to them. Therefore, the new country granted them by Podaistas was named the Republic of Atlantis.

One thing that Crist did not have to introduce was women's liberation. On Atlantis and as part of the Minoan civilization, women held the same rights as men. In fact, on this world, women could even participate in combat. This was something Crist had to acknowledge and respect for fear of alienating the locals.

That was not the only issue the Otherworlders had to accept. One of the most shocking was that women, on special ceremonial occasions, would wear robes that were open to the navel. This left the women's breasts exposed causing many a G.I. to blush, stare, or both.

The anthropologists argued with many of the more offended military personnel to keep an open mind. This was not their world and culture. They had to respect the Atlantean's customs.

Also on the education front, many of the locals were speaking passable English. In addition, many of the Otherworlders were speaking passable Minoan, which was a base of Greek. The language and trade schools were still very popular with everyone.

The general was also thankful that he had been able to establish a trade agreement with King Podaistas. With the fields burned outside Zakrostas's city wall, the people would be starving. Even the supplies on the cargo vessels would not be able to feed all the people until the next harvest.

General Crist had been musing on all of the above when an aide rushed into his office.

"General, sir," the soldier saluted.

"What is it son?" the general asked.

"There are refugees headed for the city sir," the youth said excitedly.

"Yes, we have been taking in the citizens ever since we drove out..."

"No, sir," the young soldier interrupted. "They are coming from the villages to the north. Some have traveled hundreds of miles. The northern outposts have reported thousands on foot, horse, or in wagons driving livestock."

General Crist instantly became alert. "What is driving them south?" the general asked.

"There is another army on the march, sir," the lad responded. "They say it is being led by Ares himself."

* * * * *

Theena figured she had about two hundred militia with her. They were destroying every bridge, blocking every mountain pass, and burning anything that Ares might use. She figured that their efforts must have slowed the army down significantly. The foragers would have to move further a field to find anything. This would mean that the army had to wait for their return often only to find that the foragers were empty-handed.

Ares's army was hungry and therefore, was now moving much slower. Even though Ares in his bloodlust drove the army hard, the men could only move so fast or so far on empty stomachs. The bodies of those who fell out of line and died in Ares horde littered the roads heading south.

Regardless, Ares still commanded an enormous army. It was also a desperate and merciless army. However, the few skirmishes that the various scouting units had with the militia learned to respect and fear the Amazon of Knopso.

The ragtag band of militia, exhausted from endless marching and destruction staggered to the first of the northern outposts set up by General Crist. Many of the militia was surprised to see the new army the prophecy foretold. They did not wear any armor save a strange looking helmet. The only blade they carried was smaller than even their bronze short swords.

The men all wore green shirts and pants and strange black boots with laces. They also carried a strange club with a metal tube over their shoulders. Theena did not know how effective a weapon that would be against the spears and arrows of the horde bearing down on them.

They also spoke a strange language that she could not understand. However, some men could speak a passable form of Theena's language. Theena was also amazed to see that many in the Zakrostian army carried the strange clubs, like these foreign men, instead of the heavy spears.

In front of the outpost were long lines of trenches where the men ran from one underground structure to another. Theena did not know how effective the trenches would be once Ares bore down on them. But, she concluded they were well constructed. There were sharpened wooden spikes pointing outward from the mounds in front of the trenches. Strung in parallel lines along the mounds were long lines of wire with spikes protruding from them. Many a foe would wind up entangled in the wires if they tried to storm the trenches.

Theena led her band of militia up to the man she assumed to be in charge. "We are a band of militia from the various villages to the north. We have been hampering the efforts of Ares drive south," she reported.

"Must talk slower," the man said in Theena's tongue, his accent was thick and she could hardly understand what he said.

Theena spoke again this time slower and using simple words. Eventually the man understood what she said and yelled something to another man. That man then ran off to one of the buildings in the outpost. The first man then waved over one of the soldiers from Zakrostas and said something to him.

"The major says you have done very well," the Zakrostian said. "You may head south to Zakrostas where you may join up with the army if you choose."

"My men may want to head south, but I would rather stay here and lend my services," Theena said. The Zakrostian turned to the man he called major and spoke to him. The soldier then turned back to Theena.

"The major says that will be fine. But, you will need to learn how to fight like one of them. He said he would like to ask you some more questions."

Theena nodded her assent.

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If you do not know where our tour is taking you by now....

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Old Friend Incident - Part II

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Gaius asked around about his friend's owner. His name was Tiberius Pomponius Velus, and from most reports he was a fine upstanding plebeian citizen. That was a problem for Gaius. If this man was an honest hardworking citizen, Gaius would have qualms about killing him. Even if it cost his friend his freedom. However, Gaius knew that appearances could be deceiving.

A completely different picture unfolded when speaking with Tiberius's slaves. Each spoke of his cruel nature. Every one of them remarked on how quick to anger he was. They all told tales of incidents where they were nearly beaten to death. To his fellow citizens, Tiberius was a man of honor and dignity, but to those poor unfortunate souls who were owned by him, he was a monster.

Nevertheless, this was quite common in Rome. Most agricultural slaves were regularly beaten. This was particularly true since the war against Spartacus. Many masters wished to prevent another uprising by being even more cruel. It was the nature of things. However, was it enough to warrant death? Tiberius was not acting that differently from the other Roman citizens. If Tiberius's actions were enough to warrant death, then most Roman citizens deserved to die. Gaius was not about to take on the entirety of Roman citizenry.

It was obvious that Gaius would need more information to go through with the assassination of his old friend's master. If Gaius were to believe that the Fates wanted Tiberius dead, Gaius would have to know about some dark secret not easily observed. There was no easy way to determine this in the given time frame.

Thus, from what he had observed, Gaius was not going to be satisfied that the Fates wanted Pomponius dead. Thus, he began making his way to where he was scheduled to meet his old friend. He was going to tell him that he could not do the job. However, before he got there, someone met him in the street.

"Are you Ferrarius?" the individual asked.

"I am called Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius," replied Gaius.

"We need your services," the man stated desperately.

"I am a guild master -- not a smith. You could never afford my services."

"Please," begged the man.

"I will come, but I will make no promises."

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!"

Gaius followed the man to a large estate overlooking the ocean. There was a pile of pots, pans, and cutlery on the ground.

The man pointed at the pile and said, "Could you fix these?"

"Hah!" laughed Gaius. "You could never afford my services, but in an emergency I would consider helping. I would never consider this work an emergency."

"But you are a smith..."

"I purchased my freedom long ago, so I would never have to smith again," Gaius lied. "There are local guilds for this type of work. You should contact one of them."

"But my master..."

"Your master had better make a deal with a local guild," interrupted Gaius. "There are guild rules that need to be followed. I cannot help unless a set of guidelines are met. Fixing tableware is not permitted."

"My master is -- in -- a disagreeable position -- with the local guilds."

"Sadly, that is no concern of mine."

"But could you not help us just this once?" begged the man.

"No," replied Gaius firmly.

Gaius turned around and began to walk back to the center of town. As he walked away, he heard a disturbance behind him. He turned to see someone beating the man who had brought him to this estate. Presumably, this was the slave's master punishing him for failure to procure someone to smith the damaged kitchen equipment.

"Hey!" yelled the man.

Gaius continued walking.

"I said hey!" called the man again.

Gaius continued walking.

"I am talking to you barbarian!" shouted the man.

Gaius continued walking. However, this time the man ran up to Gaius and grabbed his arm. Reflexively, Gaius stepped behind the man. He freed his arm, and put the man in a headlock in a smooth quick motion.

"What can I do for you?" asked Gaius calmly into the man's ear.

"Why have you not fixed that pile?" the man asked.

"I am not a slave," replied Gaius. "More importantly, I am not one to be bossed around."

"I will have your head for this," threatened the man.

"Excuse me?" asked Gaius.

"You should not handle someone of my import in this manner -- you freedman barbarian."

"You are correct," replied Gaius as he snapped the man's neck. "You may now tell your friends what they should do to me."

The man's lifeless body tumbled to the ground as the slave stood there in shock.

"He should not have accosted me," Gaius explained to the slave.

"You were well within your rights," replied the slave in astonishment.

"There will be questions," sighed Gaius to no one in particular.

"No one will miss Tiberius Pomponius Velus," replied the slave.

"What?" asked Gaius.

"I said no one will miss Tiberius Pomponius Velus..."

"That was Pomponius?" asked Gaius.

"That was him. The world became a nicer place today. Thank you."

"It is what the Fates wanted," replied Gaius coldly.

"I guess so."

"Tell Caprimulgus that his planned worked," Gaius stated as he turned to walk away.

"As you wish."

"Also tell him to never speak to me again," Gaius stated over his shoulder.

"It will be done."

Gaius believed that he had been tricked into killing Pomponius. It seemed clear that Pomponius's hubris was out of control. This was the type of thing the Fates regularly called upon Gaius to take care of. Thus, it was clear in Gaius's mind that it was what the Fates wanted. However, being brought to this conclusion in this manner was not to Gaius's liking.

"The Fates will have their way," stated Gaius as he left Formia.

The local magistrate had heard the story, and Gaius had been cleared of any wrongdoing. He was free to continue on his journey towards Campania. However, Tiberius Pomponius Velus left provisions in his will for the continued use of his slaves. Caprimulgus and the rest were not freed. They continued on in their positions under Tiberius Pomponius Velus's younger brother, Sextus. In this way, Gaius believed that the Fates punished both the hubris of Pomponius and the trickery of Caprimulgus.

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The God Wars

Chapter Fifteen:

March of Death

By Dwayne MacInnes

PFC Daniels stood watch looking over the lip of his trench. He and the men of the now famous "Jolly Rogers" were in control of this particular line of entrenchments. The blackened field was starting to sport sprouts of green vegetation. The once fruitful farm was now a burned and desolate wreck since the invasion of minotaurs and cyclopes. This sad scene played itself out all along the entrenchments ten miles north of Zakrostas.

Daniels looked down the barrel of his M1 Garand. There was not much to see except more blackened fields speckled with little sprouts of green. On the horizon, the blue cloudless sky spread in a monotonous vista. The only thing to break the view was the growing cloud of dust, as the approaching army of Ares grew nearer.

Sergeant Rogers walked up and down the line inspecting every soldier's weapon. The sergeant stepped into the redoubt on Daniel's left that housed the M2 .50 machinegun. This was the heaviest piece of weaponry on the front. Further back from the trenches were the mortars with their crews crouching behind sandbag embankments. Behind them, outside the gates of the city, were the artillery guns. With them, the M4 Shermans waited in reserve.

The telltale roar of a flight of aircraft flew overhead. Every plane was now in the air and headed for Ares army. Daniels swore that he had seen every plane off the Kiska as well as the Pima's two floatplanes head off towards the north.

"Sarge sure looks like they'll shake them up," Daniels said when Rogers stepped out of the redoubt again.

"With any luck the army will turn tail as soon as the planes drop those bombs and begin strafing them," the sergeant replied. "If not, the artillery should chew them up pretty good. If that still doesn't take the fight out of them, they'll have to cross that minefield and tangle up with us."

"That would be suicide," Private Wilson said next to Daniels.

"Those Japs in the Pacific wouldn't be deterred by such things," the sergeant added. "I have a feeling that those boys coming down on us will be just as fanatical."

Just to punctuate Sergeant "Jolly" Rogers point an explosion erupted just over the horizon.

Grumman TBF Avenger

Captain Hodgson was leading the 12 TBF Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers over the approaching army. The number of men marching south surprised Hodgson. There had to be thousands of men on foot, horse, and in chariot.

Regardless, Hodgson signaled his flight group and led them into a dive to drop their 500-pound bombs. Ericson released the bomb in their bay and watched it tumble into the marching army below. A huge spray of dirt and steel shot into the air mingled with blood and limbs. Even in the air as the Avenger pulled up, flew away form the explosion, the crew felt and heard rumble through their aircraft.

All over, the carpet of humanity below great bursts of steel and fire tore into the formations. Despite the onslaught, Ares drove his men forward. The mercenaries and brigands feared Ares more than the death raining down on them from the sky.

Even the 16 Hellcats and the 2 Kingfishers carried bombs. They added their weight to the bombing raid. As the army suffered unimaginable and instant carnage, it continued forward relentlessly.

The aircraft then began to strafe the long columns of Ares army. Men and horses screamed in pain and death as a mix of .50 and .30 rounds tore into them. Many fell, but more continued onward towards Zakrostas as if heedless to the death around them.

The planes buzzed the army as long as their ammunition allowed. However, it appeared that Ares had more men than the pilots had bullets. All too soon, the aircraft retreated to the airfield south of Zakrostas. The ground crew would rearm the aircraft, but because of the limitations of bombs and ammunition for the aircraft, General Crist ordered them held in reserve.

105mm Howitzer Artillery

Ares watched as the iron birds fell onto his men below. The war god smiled, he loved the war and carnage and this only whetted his appetite. After the planes finished their business, Ares barked an order and his army reformed themselves and pressed forward.

Then they heard a great rumble of thunder south of them. Many of the men gave up a yell, for surely Zeus had outflanked the defenders as was not pouring lightning bolts into the city. The men began to hasten their steps, the first hint of good news they had for days.

However, they were sadly disappointed as death rained down on them again. An ungodly whistling that grew louder until the ground beneath the soldier's feet exploded. Like with the iron birds the earth again erupted and shook. Men and beast fell with torn limbs flinging across the field.

Ares roared and ordered the men forward. Those few that tried to run Ares rode down on his fiery black steed. His red sword would flash shortly before a head flew into the air. The men reformed again and marched southward.

The thunder and explosions continued mercilessly. The men endured the best they could. Some were learning to take cover, as the whistling death grew closer. Nevertheless, they never stopped their forward progression.

Soon the thunder stopped. The mercenaries and brigands marched more carefully. Every time one attack ended, another began. These men from the sea had devilish tricks to play. In many respects, they were just a callous and cruel as the gods.

Ares sniffed the air. The blood and smoke, mixed with offal smelled like sweet ambrosia to the war god. The heady scent only made the god of war more determined to press the attack. His men were taking grievous losses, but he had called up every last one of his followers.

They only had to press onward and take the city, and then they could savor victory and spoils of war. The fact that it cost them dearly and that they fought harder to attain it, would make it that much more precious.

Ares' black steed snorted a burst of orange flame out its nostrils. The smell of brimstone washed back to Ares. The god of war again raised his sword high in the sky and urged his men forward. The army again surged towards the city.

Suddenly the men noticed that the ground itself started to explode whenever they set foot upon it. There was no telltale whistling or iron birds to alert them to the danger. The army again slowed and many were beginning to risk Ares wrath by retreating.

Again, Ares rode forward and started to hack the heads off anyone who tried to turn back. The speed of the black horse to run down the various groups trying to flee was remarkable. Not a single fleeing soldier escaped alive.

The exploding ground settled itself down. The army could see a long mound with a strange wire stretched across it. Behind the mound was the endless line of men in entrenchments defending the city.

Ares smiled. If he could surpass this obstacle, there was nothing between his army and Zakrostas. Victory was within his grasp.

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Jewel takes us to this stop.

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