Time on My Hands Chapter 2 - Revenge is Best Served with a Cold Heart

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Chapter 2: 175 CE: Revenge is Best Served with a Cold Heart

The distraught teen vowed to Ianuaria to avenge his mother. In the twilight as he passed through the burned village he salvaged a bow, quiver and arrows. The village was built where the Grunbach joined the Tauber River. Whenever the Romans ventured past their fortresses they used the trails that followed the courses of the river and streams avoiding the steep forested hills as much as possible. They had come up the Tauber from the Main River. As darkness fell Raben silently set off to follow the trail left by the hated Romans as they returned to the fortified border. The plucky lad estimated it had taken the Romans eight hours to attack and sack the three villages and return to the first village. At most their camp would only be about eight miles downstream, a two hour trip at forced march for the prisoners. For the slaving raid to be conducted as it had meant the Romans had been on the move for at least twelve hours. They would post pickets as the majority collapsed in sleep in preparation for the arduous thirty two mile twelve hour trek to the Roman fort at Miltenberg.

It was an hour before midnight when he found the Roman encampment. {present day Gamburg Google maps 49.581057, 9.714466} The Tauber had carved out an ‘S’ nearly a mile wide and a mile and half long through the steep hills. The slaver’s camp was set upon the fluvial terrace along the central portion of the ‘S’. As Raben emerged from the bottom curve he saw the campfires of the camp. Keeping to the trees stealthily moving closer he silently climbed a tree to survey the layout of the camp. There was a large campfire in front of the lone tent in the middle of the camp. Opposite the tent on the other side of the central fire a solitary figure slept. Raben assumed the head slaver was in the tent while the sleeping lone figure had to be the leader of the mercenaries. Eight additional fires formed a rough circle about the central fire faintly illuminating the entire encampment. There were eight guards patrolling the encampment. The rank and file mercenaries slept around each campfire in groups of twelve, their heads pointed toward the warming flames. One sleeping spot around each fire was empty... those men were on guard duty. The newly captured slaves were shackled and huddled together for warmth. A quick count revealed an estimated eighty bedraggled shackled prisoners; men, women and children headed for lives slavery. The horses and pack animals were tethered in a group just inside the camp boundary line. For the next two hours he avoided the eight guards as he spied on the camp from all directions. Based on his observations he estimated there were ninety six mercenaries, the mercenary commander, the head slaver and a hundred ten horses. It was about four hours until dawn when the guards changed. Watching closely he noted those coming off duty immediately slid into their blankets.

One by one, utilizing the stealth skills he’d developed in the forests. Raben silently approached the pickets. At a distance of about fifty feet he unerringly loosed an arrow into the unsuspecting guard’s heart, quietly taking them out. To insure they were dead he stealthily slit the downed man’s throat before moving on to the next guard. After taking out the patrolling pickets the silent teen eased into the tethered herd gently patting the horses he passed. With his affinity for animals not one horse whinnied. The last guard standing by the fire between the tent and the sleeping commander was quickly dispatched. With the last guard eliminated he slung the bow on his back and crept to the nearest campfire. At each campfire he silently knelt by the sleeping mercenaries to quickly slice their throats. Their death rattle of burbling blood was masked by the soft pop and crackle of the fires. The men were dead before they could resist or sound an alarm. With deadly determination and efficiency he darted from fire to fire savagely but carefully leaving a bloody trail of death in his silent wake. The weary sleeping mercenaries were no match for the ruthless killing machine they unknowingly created and unleashed, each one spraying their life giving blood onto the body of their determined executioner. Once the eight campfires were surrounded by corpses, Raben headed for the central fire. As he approached the leader of the mercenaries he recognized him as the man he’d seen ordering the raiders about as they gathered the captured in the last village. Thanks to his skills as a healer he also realized the man was not asleep but playing possum, obviously waiting for him to get close.

Without breaking stride he altered course heading for the tent. Once the fire obscured the line of sight Raben unslung the bow and quickly nocked an arrow. Just as the arrow was nocked the faux sleeping man sprang across the fire with a nasty looking knife in his hand. The teen’s lightening reflexes saved him as he instantly pivoted to the side avoiding the man’s savage lunge while simultaneously loosing the arrow while the man was still in the air. While it wasn’t an instantly killing wound, the arrow pierced the attacker’s right side in the area of his appendix on an upward trajectory with the arrowhead emerging through the left armpit.

The skewered man grunted as he hit the ground hard rolling against the tent. The entire tent shuddered as the mercenary leader used it to struggle to his feet. Without hesitation Raben nocked and loosed another arrow burrowing the point four inches into the man’s right shoulder. The man fell back against the tent but still he didn’t go down.

A groggy voice bellowed from inside the tent. “What the hell is going on?”

Raben nocked and loosed another arrow. As the man struggled off the tent to his feet a third arrow pierced his chest with the arrowhead emerging through his back ribs skewering his heart in the process.

Even with that deadly wound the man staggered towards Raben while gasping, desperately trying to get air into his collapsed lungs. Another arrow was quickly nocked as Raben took a few steps backward. Just as he prepared to loose the arrow the dying man collapsed to his knees finally dropping the knife from his right hand.

At that point the tent flap opened and the slave master stepped out. At one point he must have been a physically imposing and powerful man but the once strong man was clearly going to seed. In his hand he carried a Roman style short sword. His sleepy eyes opened in shock to see the mercenary leader on his knees gasping for breath with the arrows protruding from his body. Before he could do more then stare in surprise an arrow pierced his heart. The dying man grunted and looked down in shock at the feathered shaft sticking out of his chest before his dead body fell back into the tent.

The still kneeling fatally injured man grasped the arrow through his heart and yanked. Raben couldn’t believe the man had the strength much less the life to pull the arrow out of his chest. The act of pulling the arrowhead back through the wound only made the already extensive damage worse. Blood gushed from the wound along with the bloody gurgle of air from his pierced and collapsed lung exiting the nasty front and back wounds in time to his every gasp. The mortally wounded man simply wouldn’t die.

Raben slung his bow on his back and drew his bloody knife. Utilizing his dexterity he stepped behind the still kneeling man. One hand gripped the man’s hair yanking his head backward. Leaning over the man he used the knife to ruthlessly slice the man’s exposed throat from ear to ear nearly severing his head. Unlike the others he’d executed, very little blood sprayed from the severed arteries and veins. Considering all the blood the man had already lost the paucity of blood was understandable.

Raben breathed a sigh of relief when he felt the man’s body go slack. When he released the man’s hair the dead body fell forward to splat onto the ground. Stepping inside the tent he slit that dead man’s throat just to be sure.

The light of predawn was chasing away the darkness as Raben stepped back out of the tent. Looking about the decimated mercenaries he knew Manannan would be busy ferrying the dead souls to the afterlife. For a moment he stood before the fire, faced the dawn, then raised his hands in the air above his head, leaned his head back and howled like a wolf. In the distance a pack of wolves answered his call.

The hopeless prisoners awoke in the grey predawn, shaken by the closeness of the wolf call. The distant answering howls made them shiver. Looking toward the source of the initial howl they saw a small figure silhouetted against the central fire with arms upraised. The lack of response from the sleeping mercenaries increased the fear already in their hearts. When the howl echoed off into silence they grew terrified of the eerily silent camp. With the slowly brightening dawn they saw the sleeping forms of the mercenaries but could see no sentries. The lone figure by the central fire didn’t move until the first rays of the emerging sun struck his form. Thus brightly illuminated they feared they were seeing a blood soaked demon!

The demon turned from the fire and rummaged the nearest body before standing. Holding whatever he removed he once more raised his arms to the rising sun. “They’re all dead,” the bloody demon loudly declared. “Mother... I have done as you asked! As I vowed to Ianuaria I have avenged your death in a bloodbath! But I find I can take no joy in their deaths. There is no satisfaction! Now I will free those taken by the Roman scum!”

It took a moment for the ex-prisoners to realize they recognized the voice. Cautiously they drew in their breath hoping beyond all hope they were about to be freed. The figure they hoped was Raben kicked the body lying outside the tent. Then it slowly but with great determination approached them. It didn’t take long before what they’d initially seen as a blood soaked demon was indeed the familiar form of Raben... uncharacteristically covered in blood from head to toe!

But he was much different than the familiar oft timid Raben. The familiar smiling, eager to help and caring small healer was indeed covered in blood from those he’d killed. The expression on his face was one that chilled the hearts of the prisoners. It left no doubt in their minds the healer had stepped out of his normal mode of healing to become an all too efficient killer. Stopping before them the weary lad held aloft a ring of keys before the shackled prisoners.

“I am no longer the meek healer you knew,” Raben declared in a stone cold voice that brooked no disagreement. “Erminlinda was crucified by the scourge I have excoriated. I am now the clan Ianuarian. Your freedom is due solely to my revenge! You owe your lives to me! I will release your debt if you do as I order. When you are released from your shackles strip everything from the dead. You can take the weapons, armor, clothing, food and goods. Take no revenge upon the corpses. As victor I claim the tent and all inside, the lone campsite opposite the tent as well as all coin and jewels found on the dead. As you strip the dead bring the valuables to the tent. Use the horses to transport their bodies into the forests far enough for the stench of their rotting not to reach this place. They will be carrion for the wolves and crows. You will do this today and stay here overnight. I also want the four best horses. You may have the rest. You can return to the clan lands tomorrow morning. When you get there the first thing you will do is to take Erminlinda’s body down from where it hangs and place it on a pyre of honor. I will light the pyre when I return. I will then consider your life debt repaid and you can return to your lives. Do you agree to my terms?”

The still shackled people understood life debts. That Raben demanded so little to be released from that debt humbled them. They also understood Raben would brook no betrayal of his charge. All quickly agreed to the liberal terms.

Raben tossed them the keys and turned back to the tent. They eagerly took the keys and began freeing themselves. Once freed the braver warriors cautiously made their way to the ‘sleeping’ forms of mercenaries to discover each of the mercenaries lying about the campfires had his throat cut while he slept. It wasn’t lost on them that Raben had killed them all without alerting their slumbering neighbors. The men scooped up weapons and began checking the corpses. They discovered those who had been on guard duty had all silently met their end with an unerring arrow through the heart followed by a cut throat. All the mercenaries were dead... all obviously silently killed by scrawny little Raben! The tiny weakling healer boy who no one had ever considered to be worthy of being called a hunter or warrior had proven everyone wrong.

Those freed quickly ransacked the packs of the Romans for food, hungrily devouring their first meal in almost a day. No one approached Raben who wearily walked into the Tauber. The cool fresh water rinsed the dried blood from his body. While the blood rinsed out of his clothing the dark brown color remained. When he was refreshed he headed to the central tent. There he searched through the contents. A cask held the man’s jewelry and three others held coins. A satchel of scrolls was also there. Unfortunately, like virtually all of his clan, Raben couldn’t read. Still, they intrigued him. Perhaps with study he could decipher them. After stripping the head slaver’s body he dragged the body outside dropping it by the last guard he’d slain. The freed men would carry them into the forest. Several women including his birth mother were gathered around one of the outlying fires cooking. The kids were eagerly stripping bodies, getting a bit of payback. The rest of the women were assisting the men hoisting dead bodies on the backs of horses to be lead into the trees to discard. His brothers were amongst them. Satisfied things were progressing as he’d ordered he turned to strip the hard to kill man only to discover the body was gone! At first he assumed they’d taken the body but quickly realized they’d started with the bodies by the outlying campfires.

A child’s scream drew everyone’s attention. A single bloody Roman was stumbling towards the forest. As everyone froze the sound of the wounded man’s raspy breathing was clearly audible The warriors sprang into action scooping up spears to surround the man, stopping him just a few feet from the forest.

“Don’t try to kill him,” Raben ordered as he ran to the battered mercenary. “Just keep him from escaping.”

The warriors were clearly frightened. It was plain to see two arrows still pierced the mercenary’s body as well as wound on his chest and back from the arrow he’d torn from his heart. But the most unnerving was the bloody horrific wound of his slashed throat. What clearly terrified them was they could clearly see the injuries healing as they watched. The man appeared to be in his early twenties and judging by his clothes it was obvious he was a well to do mercenary captain. As he miraculously regained his strength he surveyed the clearly terrified ex prisoners, the smirk upon his face clearly intimidating them.

Then he saw the bold and unafraid youth staring at him. Now that he’d had a chance to recuperate his senses were returning. A glance around the camp revealed the still bodies of his troops. “You took out my troops, shot me with three arrows and cut my throat,” he declared in flawless German despite his raw raspy voice. “Unlike those you freed you are not afraid of me. How old are you, girl?”

“I’m fourteen and a boy,” Raben replied with a bit of frustration at once more having a stranger think he was a girl. “I’m the clan’s Ianuarian.”

“A healer,” the man laughed. “No healer could kill as silently and efficiently as you did. Besides, I crucified your clan’s Ianuarian.”

“She was my adoptive mother and taught me how to be a healer. I can’t recall a time I wasn’t by her side as she treated patients, made potions and gathered herbs,” Raben growled as his eyes narrowed. “She was barely alive when I found her. She asked me to end her agony and avenge our clan. I don’t know what kind of a demon you are but I WILL kill you.”

“Better men than you have tried and failed,” the mercenary mirthlessly chuckled.

Before anyone could react Raben snatched a spear from one of the warriors, charged and skewered the still weak but smirking Roman, driving him back several steps until he slammed into the trunk of a sturdy tree. The charge was so intense the spearhead penetrated four inches into the trunk of the tree. The smirk quickly disappeared from the man’s face as he grasped the shaft of the spear protruding from his stomach.

Without hesitation Raben grabbed another spear thrusting it through the impaled man’s left lung and heart. Within moments another spear through the right lung also pinned him to the tree.

The clan hunter/warriors were stunned not only that the man still lived but by the unbridled ferociousness of Raben’s attack.

“Bring rope and a bow and arrows,” Raben brusquely ordered as he glared at the mercenary.

Two men responded, returning in a few minutes with the ordered goods. Raben had the men tie the rope around the mercenary’s hands pulling them back around the tree to tightly loop them in place. The same actions were repeated with his feet. Once the Roman was securely tied in place, splayed against the tree trunk Raben took the bow, nocked an arrow and from ten feet skewered the man’s left forearm. In a few minutes his forearms and hands were firmly pinned to the tree trunk by the arrows with the arrowheads firmly embedded into the trunk. Then the arrow assault was repeated with the Roman’s lower legs and feet. Unbelievably the man was still conscious but clearly in severe pain.

“I’ll kill this demon,” Raben growled as he stared the man down. “He’s not going anywhere. I need some food.” With that he left the man suffering on the tree.

The frightened freed people gave the impaled man a wide birth as they continued cleaning up the campsite. Raben moved around the site collecting jewels and coins from the piles of booty eating as he did so. Then he requested the kids to gather as much firewood as they could piling it near the skewered mercenary.

The camp was cleared of bodies as the day ended. The booty was divided. The clan set up for the night on the opposite side of the encampment from the pinioned man. Raben sat before him watching his extensive wounds slowly heal. The two peered deeply into the other’s eyes.

The skewered man smiled and since both lungs were by then healed but still pierced by the spears he whispered. “What’s your name?”

“Raben,” he answered. “What’s your name?”

“Marcellus Longinus,” the man replied. “Could I have some water?”

“No,” Raben sighed. “I see your wounds are healing. Water would only give you strength. I can’t do that. After all, you are a demon.”

“No, I’m cursed,” the man sighed. “I can’t be killed. As you have witnessed even if I die my body will heal and I’ll return to life.”

Raben frowned. “How is that possible?”

“Have you heard of a man named Jesus?” Marcellus asked.

“A teacher who healed the sick and raised the dead,” Raben replied.

“That’s him,” the man answered. “I was a twenty year old soldier in the Legio III Gallica stationed in Damascus. My cohort was dispatched to the armpit of the empire, Jerusalem, to maintain order amongst the Jews during their Passover holiday. Jesus was a simple preacher who spoke against the corrupt practices of the Jewish Temple priests. In retaliation they arrested him and turned him over to the Roman Prefect to have him killed for inciting rebellion. My unit was charged with crucifying him. Many jeered as he was crucified while his terrified followers cried. After a few hours he said he forgave everyone. Then the sky turned dark as he died which spooked everyone. When the light returned my decanus (sergeant) ordered me to pierce his side to make sure he was dead. When I did so water gushed from the wound and ran down the spear shaft onto my hands. I felt a massive tingling that froze my arms causing me to nearly pass out. The body was taken down and buried in a tomb. The body later disappeared from the tomb. The followers of Jesus said he was the son of God and that three days after his burial he rose from the dead. I can’t speak to that. But I believe the shock I received when I pierced his side changed me.”

“What I do know is that since that day I have not aged. I’ve lived for one hundred sixty five years since the death of Jesus. Any wound I suffer heals rapidly and I have not been sick. I can’t get drunk. Even poisons have no lasting effect on me. I have died several times but as you discovered I come back to life. I truly wish I could die. I’m tired of life and killing and long for death.”

Raben nodded. “Why didn’t you seek another occupation? You could have become a farmer?”

“I tried to return to my farming roots,” the weary man answered. “When I didn’t age the neighbors accused me of being witch. I was assaulted and beaten to death and left for the crows while my crops and buildings were burned. I returned to life over night. In the morning I walked through the village and they drew back in fear. I returned to the legion and life of a warrior. When the legion realized I was not aging I resigned. I tried farming again in the province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. I purchased a farm I named Barmaz, it’s the watershed of a small tributary stream in a valley high in the mountains just below the tree line. I hired locals to run the farm and stayed a few years. When my not aging started to become an issue I kept ownership but became a mercenary. My soldiers fear me but the wages were good so they stayed. My life is lonely. If you can end my torment please do so.”

“I may have a way to end your life,” Raben said. “I’m a healer sworn to help those in need. Sometimes that means helping people die. Killing was against my vows. However, thanks to you, that has changed.”

“For what it’s worth I apologize,” the weary weak impaled man sighed. “How do you think you could end my life?”

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Comments

Longinus' raid

Podracer's picture

for the slaver has done a great ill, and paid a great price. Will he be rewarded with an end? Raben might have lived out a good and quiet life if not for this.

"Reach for the sun."

Marcellus Longinus

Is the mercenary captain; the head slaver was older and not immortal.

Hugs and Bright Blessings,
Renee

This certainly a new take on

This certainly a new take on what happened with the Roman soldiers who performed the crucifixion of Christ. Having the Water of Salvation wash upon him and thus making him "immortal" is definitely a story indeed.

Actually, the bit about the

Brooke Erickson's picture

Actually, the bit about the soldier who stabbed Christ with the spear becoming immortal is a pretty widespread legend. Almost as widespread as the one about the Wandering Jew.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longinus has one version of things.

Brooke brooke at shadowgard dot com
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