13 May 2008

The Battles for Yayoi

Year 5255

Yayoi fell easily. Too easily for my taste. As I walked the Eastern perimeter and gazed over the hills, I had an uneasy feeling. There were barely two thousand Spanish forces in the city, and they fell easily before our swords, yet rumors of the massive military force at the disposal of the Spanish Queen were rife. Something was amiss.

The city itself was quiet: they had suffered at the hands of the Spanish occupation, and had little reason to believe our being there would be any better. Even the children cowered in the doorways, clinging tightly to the long, dark skirts of their mothers, avoiding the smiles and gazes of my soldiers. We would need to do something about that, later, once this unease has passed.

I turned along a palm lined street, headed for the lookout station at the Southeastern corner of the city. Smoke appeared on the horizon, but I didn't know yet if it came from the mines behind the hills, or from destruction leveled by the Spanish in retreat. I recognized the archer stationed at the bottom of the wooden stairway, standing at rapt attention with her eyes searching the middle distances.

"Greetings, Mara." Her gaze shifted, meeting mine.

"Greetings, Captain."

"Anything?" I asked, gesturing with my chin towards the hills.

"No, Captain."


I moved up the stairs, wincing slightly. I had been nicked by a Spanish arrow in the initial siege, it's iron tip tearing through the back of my calf, just above the thick hide boots. Stairs were a bitch.

The lookout served as a temporary command post, and there were maps spread over most available surfaces, as well as spyglasses and, most importantly, a barrel of mead. I removed my bow and placed it against the wall, massaging my breast where the string had cut across it. There were rumors of a tribe in a distant island that cut them off in order to shoot better. Sometimes, I was tempted.

Kath was there, and didn't even look up from her maps. She was the best strategist I knew, and a dear friend. We had survived a dozen years in the desert together, and Yayoi was, even in the midst of war, a break of sorts.

I grabbed a mug from a shelf, filled it with the amber liquid. "You know they're trying to replace us?"

"Ya. I don't know. Maybe." There were stories from Carthage of a new type of bow, longer, thicker, able to shoot further, but also requiring much more strength to manage. Strength that some of my troops had, but strength more readily found in men.

She looked up. "Maybe, my ass. The swords are already all men. Now this. What the hell will we do, Cap'n?"

I drank deeply, then smiled, both at her and at the hot flush spreading from my throat. "Oh, I dunno. I figure we can always be nurses." She snorted, returned to her maps. I moved over to the table, placed a hand on her shoulder, and looked. "What do you think?"

"I think for damn sure they're coming. I think here, here, and here." She pointed to three routes through the hills, all coming from the South, all offering excellent cover until the forces were virtually at our doorstep.


"And, if they come in force, I think we will lose the village here, but can protect the rest."

"OK. We can live with that. Any news from Michael?"

She took the mug from my hands, drained it. "Not really. His troops are all walking around with raging hard-ons from taking the city, but he's keeping them sober. He knows we're not done."

"They may need to wait quite some time." Kath smirked. "In the meantime, what are we going to do with those ... creatures ... in that barn? What did they call them? Kabaiyo?"

"Something like that. You did see the wheeled carts? When they attack, I would bet my ass they'll have them."

That was a worry. "You know Mara, below? Isn't she from Hadrumetum?" Kath nodded. I reached for a pen and an piece of scrap and wrote:

Your Majesty,

Excuse the lack of formalities: we remain in a state of seige. Three pressing matters:

* The spear regiments trained in H. all those years ago are needed. Immediately, if not sooner. Mara, who bears this letter to you, has separate instructions for them.

* Yes, the legends are true. We have seen them, we have killed them, and we will soon be killing more. None of us can pronounce the Spanish correctly: the best we can do is "Kabaiyo." I will send pictures soon.

* Yaiyo is yours. We lost all but one of the seige towers and (as of now) 1,104 proud sons and daughters of Carthage. Those that survived are healing, and will be even stronger for the counter-attack when it comes.

Yours in service and triumph,

Captain Uticus,
Desert Warriors


She was up the stairs instantly. "I need you to take a small group--twenty-five to thirty at most--and go, as fast as you can, to Carthage. Take this to the Queen." I sealed the letter and handed it to her. "And, Mara. After that, you'll go to Hadrumetum." Her eyes widened: she was young and new, but it had still been close to a decade since she hade seen home. "We need the spears. You'll go by the barns outside town on your way out. Take Amelyssa of the 7th--she speaks a little Spanish--and find out everything you can about the kaba ... kabai ... whatever the hell those things are. Hug your family, then get back here as fast as you can."

Eyes still wide, she nodded. "Yes, Captain."

The attack came two weeks later. Just enough time for us to hope it wouldn't come. I was in that misty space between waking and awake when I heard the bell pattern. Three quick tones, a pause, and a louder, deeper tone. Repeated. I was up instantly, dressed just after, and at the stairs of the lookout station within minutes. Kath, damn her eyes, was already there.

"What kept you?"

"You win, Kath. You ever sleep?"

She turned, leapt up the stairs. I followed, and managed, with a well-placed elbow to her midsection, to beat her across the room to the viewing platform. We each grabbed a spyglass and aimed them towards the mountains, where we could see torches dancing in the distance, and a low rumble growing stronger.

"Kabaiyo. Thousands of them. And seige towers."

Kath grunted and shook her head. "No. Not seige towers--something else. And yes, thousands. But not many thousands--see, there, just by the second ridge. The torches stop." I looked again. She was, as usual, right. And, she was humming, which worried me: she only hummed when things got difficult, but I knew better than to interrupt her. Instead, I kept searching the flow of Spanish soldiers, but all I found were more and more kabaiyo, flags, and there, in the middle, hundreds of Spanish monks in brown cloth, carrying the crosses of their odd faith.

Kath stopped humming. I looked at her expectantly.

She smiled. "We'll make it. We dig in. If I'm right, those things are going to cause some major damage. Make our siege towers look downright puny."

"OK. You tell Michael, I'll get the women ready."

They tried later to explain how the new engines worked. I never understood. All I knew was that the stones came in hard and fast and big. Damn, but they were big. I never thought something that big could be used in war. The ground shook, and we huddled in the dark of the shelters and listened to buildings collapsing in an odd pattern of incredible noise punctuated by terrifying silence.

But, it ended. And when it did, I saw mounted archers, but no swords. And too few archers. Kath wanted to stay holed up, to let them break against the city like a wave dispersing into the sea. She was right: it would work. But there are times for strategy, and there are times for madness. And it gave Michael's men something to do.

Have you ever seen a Carthaginian beserker horde? They won't even tell us what they use, but before battle they all share a meal. Shortly after, they vomit, and then, glassy eyed and foul-smelling, they start to bubble like a cauldron coming to boil. We let them out of the city gates under a full moon, and could, above their yells, hear the surpised shrieks of the Spanish as they fell under their blades.

It only took a few hours until they returned. They came back in fewer numbers than they went out, but they came back with hundreds of Spanish prisoners. Some renounced their Queen and became citizens of Carthage, some did not, and were killed. Some amused Michael's men. We sent the priests home.

Yayoi was secure.

(from http://civisibles.blogspot.com/ )

12 May 2008

From "A Short History of Ancient Carthage"

The Desert Campaigns

The desert campaigns began with explorations into the sandy wastes surrounding Parthian, but soon grew into the largest military expedition in Carthaginian history up to that point. In the early years of exploration (ca. year 5,000), the desert was crossed for the first time, revealing the presence of both Babylonian and Barbarian settlements on the Southern plains. Clearly, if Carthage were to grow, the desert would have to be conquered, and could no longer serve as a buffer between the emerging empire and the rest of the world.

Scouts reported that the Barbarian city fell before the fury of a small Spanish force, possessed by the zeal of religious fervor in their never-ending efforts to spread Christianity. However, over time, no Spanish reinforcements arrived, making the city a tempting target. In 5,250, seven thousand Carthaginian soldiers were poised in the hills across the river from the settlement, waiting for the official order to charge the city.

War would mean generations of enmity with the Spanish, and would determine much of the course of later Carthage. These battles--claimed by some to be wars of aggression, by others wars of liberation--mark the end of "Ancient Carthage," as with them the empire was launched into the murky waters of international relations and diplomacy.

(from http://civisibles.blogspot.com/ )

06 May 2008

Myths and Legends

The queen narrowed her eyes and considered the man in front of her. Her chin rested on her left hand, the elbow on the softly padded arm of her chair; not a throne, really, just a large chair, with padding covering the hard, white stone beneath. A silver cloth embroidered with golden designs was wrapped over her shoulder, obscuring her right arm from view.

He was a small man, clothed in a simple brown tunic tied around the waist with a deep red rope, attached to the end of which was a small silver medallion. He was on his knees, shaking, and she chould see the sweat on his forearms. Evidently, her reptuation preceeded her, and this pleased her mightily. She began to speak, softly at first, but growing not louder, but sterner as she went.

"You know, we hear all sorts of legends here. All sorts of fictions are brought before me. You did see the bodies that line the road to Carthage, did you not? All of them, liars. All of their blood strengthening the road to Carthage. All of them dead." Her voice turned cold, the sound of gray steel glowing in a dim light, "Are you lying?"

"N-n-no, Queen Hannah, no, please, I'm not."

"Have you seen these beasts?"

"No, I have not."

"Then how can you be so sure."

The man was silent, staring straight ahead, aware that no answer could possibly appease her. The Queen stood up, and approached him. She reached out a hand to his chin, and lifted it so she could gaze into his eyes. Slowly, she unwrapped her right arm, bringing her hand up to his cheek.
"Do you feel that? Do you know what it is?" she asked.

He fought to keep his head from jerking away, as the thick scar tissue of her right hand moved across his face. He gulped, and nodded.

"Good. Then you know we have no distaste for blood. Guards!" Instantly, five muscular figures were by her side. "Take him away to the spire. Make sure he is comfortable, and fed. If he tells the truth, he shall live. If not, the ravens will feed on his eyes."

It was, to be honest, the best he could hope for.

The queen carefully re-wrapped her arm, raising the hem to her lips as she finished, then returned to her seat and struck up a conversation, although nobody else was present. "Preposterous. Four legged beasts that can be ridden at great speeds for great distances, some with massive teeth curving out of their mouth? Absolutely preposterous. If there were such a thing, we would have heard of it--nay, we would have some." Her eyes dropped. "Still ... We cannot be too careful, can we?"

* * *

"She can't be serious."

For the fifth time, Hadrumetum's Captain of the Guard read the paper she held in her hands. She focused on the seal at the bottom, trying to find the mistake that would reveal it s a forgery. There was none. She sighed, and pushed herself back from the desk. "Ianna!"

A thin woman with shortly cropped red hair entered into the room and stood, ramrod straight by the door.

"The Queen has spoken. We are to train two thousand women as ... " She glanced down at the paper again. " ... spearwomen. They are to take five foot sections of strong wood and attach sharpened knives to the ends." Ianna's eybrows rose almost imperceptibly, but she knew better than to respond. "These are to be used to defend against large, four footed beasts, some capable of great speed, others weight as much as a dozen men."

Ianna couldn't stop herself, and turned to the Captain. "Cows, Captain? We're supposed to fight cows?"

The captain took a deep breath, and lowered her voice: "No, Ianna, not cows. The Queen has heard of beasts in foreign lands like this, and fears an invasion. More importantly, the Queen has spoken. I believe I said that once already. Do I need to say it a third time?"

Ianna stiffened back to attention. "No, Captain."

"Good. Go. We have six months to have the first five hundred ready for royal review. If they aren't ready by then, we'll both be food for the birds on the road to the palace. Dismissed."

After Ianna left, the Captain leand against her desk, shaking her head. "Cows, indeed."

(from http://civisibles.blogspot.com/ )