Time on My Hands Chapter 4 - Meeting Romans

Chapter 4: 175-195 CE:

Meeting Romans

That evening Gunter, who had raced Raben, was in a surly mood. He didn’t like losing and certainly not to a scrawny boy. While Raben hadn’t taunted him several of his fellow hunter/warriors did. After several mugs of mead his manly pride demanded he prove Raben could never have taken out the slavers on his own.

“Boy, I’m going to prove you’re nothing but a wimp,” he growled as he stalked to the youth who was checking the wound of an injured girl off to one side of the village’s central fire.

Raben ignored him which pissed the big man off.

Reaching out Gunter grabbed the healer by an arm hauling him away from his patient. “I’m talking to you boy!”

Raben was lifted off his feet by the grab but quickly squirmed about in the big man’s grasp landing a savage kick to the side of his head. The blow staggered the man who dropped his quarry. Raben landed on his feet moving into a fighter’s stance.

“You’ve had too much to drink,” Raben told him. “I don’t want to hurt you so go sleep it off.”

That only enraged the big man. “You hurt me? Why you arrogant mutt! I’ll rip you limb from limb!” He then launched himself at the boy.

Raben dove between the man’s legs twisting 180° as he did so enabling him to land a solid punch into the man’s groin as he slid through then rolled to his feet ready for another attack.

The big man let out a tremendous “OOOFFF!” as he staggered a few steps grabbing his aching testicles.

Raben performed a flying drop kick impacting the groaning man’s ass. Like a massive tree crashing to earth the big bully fell face first with a THUD. Everyone watched in open mouthed amazement.

Raben sprang on the prone man’s back, grabbed his hair pulling his head back and placing the flat side of his knife against the man’s exposed throat. “This is how I killed the slavers! Only I used the sharp edge of the blade. Fortunately for you I don’t like killing. This is your first and last warning! Next time you’ll die!” With that he pulled the knife away and slammed the man’s face into the ground then stood sheathing the knife. As if nothing had happened he returned to the girl and her mother.

Needless to say everyone was stunned. The bear of a man was a known brawler and no one had ever seen him bested. That Raben had so easily defended himself and could have killed the man in mere seconds shocked everyone. The normally friendly and non aggressive healer obviously had a deadly side when angered. The story of how he single handedly killed ninety eight slavers no longer sounded far fetched. The story would grow to epic proportions over the succeeding months.

After that things settled down. Raben’s small cabin had been built up a narrow side valley with it’s own stream at the same location he’d led the fleeing villagers to safety. A corral and lean-to against the cabin created shelter for two horses. He traded the other two to a needy family in exchange for fodder and feed to maintain his two remaining horses. For much of the remainder of the fall he gathered the herbs and plants of his trade since the raid had destroyed much of the stores he and his mother had gathered. As winter set in salves and potions were made. Once a week he traveled by horseback to the surrounding villages treating those who needed help.

With the number of hunters reduced because of the raid Raben made his rounds riding one horse with the second serving as pack horse. He never failed to enter a village without either a deer or rabbits and squirrels which he gave to the populous.

The consortium that sponsored the slaving raid grew concerned about the missing raiding party when they hadn’t returned after a week. The Roman garrison at the Miltenberg fortress refused to send out search parties unless the regional governor ordered them to do so. The expedition had not been officially sanctioned so they didn’t want to get involved. Questioning travelers coming into the border crossing they learned of rumors about a slaving raid that had attacked several villages and had in turn been annihilated by the vengeful clan before they could return to the Roman Limes. The consortium discovered they couldn’t find anyone to hire to go out to try to find the missing expedition. The Roman governor pointedly refused any assistance. The peace between the Romans and Germanic tribes was fragile. A slaving raid could spark the tribes into war. The border legions and auxiliaries were on alert. As the weeks passed the fear of reprisal eased. Apparently the annihilation of the unsanctioned raid satisfied the Germanic tribes need for retribution. The consortium quietly dispersed to avoid further aggravating the Roman authorities.

German traders, both from the free tribes and from Germans who had taken up residence in the Roman towns regularly ventured across the border to trade. Their numbers were usually less than four or five people which didn’t rouse suspicions on either side. As the years passed the crazy tale that some small young healer had single handedly wiped out the slaver expedition seemed implausible but was so wide spread on both sides of the border that all knew it had some basis in fact.

Raben easily picked up the reins as the new clan Ianuarian. From his home base he made a monthly trek around the clan villages advising and teaching anyone interested in healing. As he traveled he let it be known that he was willing to accept apprentices who would accompany him during his monthly village rounds. They would be under his tutelage two weeks a month. In this way he ensured the clan would have trained healers.

During the two weeks a month without apprentices Raben trained and hunted. Running through the forested hills and boggy areas along streams built even more stamina and agility. Scampering up and down trees, leaping from limb to limb and even tree to tree like a squirrel built balance and grip strength. Leaping across fallen trees and streams learning to twist and contort learning to always land on his feet. Ropes made of braided leather strips were common. Using the ropes as a lasso was uncommon but not unknown. Raben practiced until he was able to snag targets up to fifty feet away. Already a skilled archer he became nearly perfect hitting a target at one hundred fifty yards and eighty percent at two hundred yards. Using one of mankind’s oldest weapons, the sling, he accurately hit targets within a hundred yards with a fifty percent accuracy at three hundred yards.

Two years after the slaving raid Raben took both horses out on a lone hunting trip. His goal was to take down a large bull aurochs. It took a few days until he found fresh signs. It took another day to close in on the fierce wild animal. It was a huge bull standing five feet ten inches tall and weighing about one thousand five hundred pounds. It took three well placed arrows to bring the beast down. Utilizing his horses he tied ropes around the rear legs, tossed the rope over a sturdy tree branch then used the horses to lift the huge carcass. Thus suspended he easily gutted the beast. Then he skinned the hide. Next he began to cut the body into easily handled pieces.

His next task was to frame a large lean-to with interior rails from which he suspended the carved meat. After building a fire he covered the lean-to with spruce tree boughs and then ferns which trapped the smoke and heat. For the next several days he tended the fire to smoke the meat. Tending the fire and making sure the smoke stayed inside the structure took about ten minutes per hour. In the time between tending the improvised smokehouse he scraped the hide. Once all the fat and flesh had been removed he thoroughly washed it in a nearby stream. Then he hung and stretched the hide on a drying frame he’d built

On the morning of the eighth day he tore down the impromptu smokehouse, loaded the smoked meat onto travois and panniers on the horses then strapped the drying frame atop the panniers of the strongest horse. When he returned home much of the meat was traded to the villagers in exchange for them tanning and waterproofing the hide.

That winter, tucked snugly in his cabin as snow storms hit the area, Raben began working the soft but tough waterproofed black leather. The first item he made was a hooded cloak that reached to his knees. The cloak featured a drawstring hood and numerous pockets inside. It would keep him dry and prevent wind from penetrating. From the remaining leather he cut out a set of gauntlets with leather thongs to lace them in place. Twin rows of metal studs were hammered into the leather running from wrist to elbow. Each half inch long stud was a quarter inch in diameter, pointed and spaced an inch apart. Next was a set of gloves to the first knuckle with four of the pointed half inch studs mounted before the knuckles. Last was a leather vest with numerous pockets to hold accessories. These items allowed the healer to move about without undo restrictions in nearly any weather. The gauntlets and gloves greatly increased the damage he could dish out in hand to hand combat.

While he occasionally received monetary payments for his services he never spent any bartering for all his needs. Over the years Raben exchanged the lesser coins he’d taken from the slavers for larger denominations or gold coins. He kept the jewels. The consolidation allowed him to comfortably carry his wealth in sturdy leather pouches. Many nights as he sat before the fire in his cabin he took out the spear head that had pierced Jesus. Dark red stains in the veins gave evidence it had seen bloody use.

Several times a wolf silently arrived at his door or camp. Packing his gear he followed, loping through the forests to where an injured wolf lay. There he treated the wounds. Twice he told the wolves there was nothing he could do to heal the wounded wolf. With the permission of the pack and the individual wolf, he eased it’s transition to the other side, burying the corpse.

The triplets reached the age of thirty four. Brothers Adalfuns and Adalbert, while beginning to grey, were still brawny, deep voiced, hirsute, seasoned and well respected warriors and woodsmen. Raben hadn’t visibly changed since killing the demon slaver twenty years before. He had neither grown nor aged. Since he had not entered puberty when the incident occurred his voice never changed and his body was still that of a hairless youth. His reddish black hair hung to his waist. Still only four feet ten inches tall and weighing ninety five pounds he was easily mistaken for a prepubescent twelve year old... more often a girl rather then a boy. However his appearance was deceiving. The small lithe healer was nearly as strong as his much larger siblings. His stamina was unmatched. He could run through the forests all day and easily go three days without sleep. While his herb lore was unmatched and his skill as a healer unequaled, the fact he didn’t age made people feel uneasy. The tales of his rescue of his clan and the destruction of the Roman demon had become legendary. Some began to wonder if the demon hadn’t been destroyed but moved to Raben. The idea he might be a witch sprung up. The only saving grace was that he never harmed anyone and seldom failed to heal those he tended to. Still the talk of being a demon grew. Jealousy about his abilities and seemingly eternal youth caused fear and apprehension to grow. The thing that saved him was his skills as a healer and his gifts of meat as he shared the bounty of his hunting. Wisely, Raben had trained five healers over the years. When things became too intense, he told the clan elders he was leaving to learn more about healing from the Romans. They were greatly relieved.

As the last of the winter snow melted Raben sat down with his birth mother, his brothers and their families and with the families of his younger half siblings for a farewell feast. Quite naturally he supplied a deer and a wild boar which his sister-in-laws prepared. After the meal he spoke quietly to those who had not lived through the slaving raid.

“My brothers and I were fourteen years old when the Roman slavers raided our villages. Along with our mother and many others, they were captured. I escaped the attack and then followed. That night as they camped I killed the guards, then slit the throats of the sleeping raiders. You know I’m a dedicated healer so it hurt my soul to take ninety eight lives. Then I freed all of our clans people who had been captured. However the military leader of the mercenaries bore a curse. He could not die nor did he age. I had killed him but his wounds healed and he came back to life. However he was weak and disoriented which allowed me to run a spear through him pinning him to a tree. We tied him to the tree and used arrows to nail his arms and legs to the trunk. We talked and he explained his Curse and how it always healed him, prevented him from ever being sick, prevented him from being poisoned, and kept him from aging. He was a twenty year old legionnaire when the Curse was put on him and he had lived for one hundred sixty five years since then. Then he explained he was weary of living and wished he could die.”

“I figured that if his body could regenerate, the only way he could die was to burn his body reducing it to ashes. That’s what I did, then I gathered up the remaining bones and teeth and crushed them. As I crushed the last bits I felt shocks shoot up my arms. When the last piece of him was powdered I felt the Curse move to me. Since then I have never been ill nor have I aged. The only thing evil about the Curse is I watch everyone around me age while I stay the same. It’s made my life difficult because I look like a kid when I’m as old as my brothers. The fact I don’t age frightens people. That’s why I’ve decided to leave.”

Looking at his nephews and nieces he added, “I will return but don’t know when. It will be years. I’m telling you now that you should not be surprised that I’ll show no sign of aging when I do come back. The cursed man had a signet ring to identify him to those who might doubt who he was. Here is a piece of leather with the mark of the ring embossed upon it so you or your descendants will recognize me.” The gathering ended with hugs.

As the leaves appeared on the trees Raben left. Determined to leave Germania Magna, Raben began a four day trip by riding slowly up the Tauber River carrying all he owned. The horses were strong, dependable and young. They were the third generation of the horses he’d taken from the slaver’s camp he’d exterminated. After a traveling about fifty miles he reached the site of present day Deibach {Google maps 49.606186, 9.744039} where he headed up the tributary stream Wohnbach for about three miles before heading upstream along the Davidsbach for a mile and a half then up the Katzenklinge a half mile to it’s headwaters. {Shillingsfurst Google maps 49.282910, 10.258165} Just five hundred feet to the west is the headwaters of the Wornitz which he followed for twenty five miles to the present day town of Wilburgstetten. From there he followed the Rotach upstream for three and a half miles then turned to follow the Gaxharterb Bach which he followed three and a half miles to it’s headwater. From the ridge above the spring he saw a Roman Fort of Halheim {Google maps 48.974843, 10.277102} about a mile away across a valley in the Roman Province of Raetia.

A lone rider with a pack horse, especially a youth, posed no threat so the Roman guards on duty disinterestedly watched Raben’s steady approach across the valley. They noted the rider’s diminutive size and the fact the hooded leather cloak hid his figure. When he reached the gate Raben flicked his hood down so the guards could see his face.

“Well, I’ve never seen a German bitch ride up all on her own,” the decanus {corporal} of the gate guard drawled in Latin as he eyed the baby faced long haired youth as she stopped her horse before the fort’s open gate. With a predatory grin he approached the horse and rider. “I bet she’s a virgin fleeing her smelly husband to be!”

“Your manners are horrible,” Raben calmly replied in flawless Latin as he looked down upon the surprised decanus. Because of his Curse endued ability with languages he had no problem communicating with the guards. “I’m most definitely not a bitch since I’m male.”

The munifex {private} guards did their best to hide their chuckles at seeing the often overbearing always grumpy decanus caught off guard and so effectively shut down. “You certainly don’t look male, bitch” the decanus blustered. “What’s your business?”

“I hope your impertinence is not representative of the Roman legions,” Raben cooly replied. “I’m an Ianuarian. I want to go to Rome to study healing to add to my skills.”

“You’re an Ianuarian? You’re not even wet behind the ears,” the indignant decanus scoffed. “More likely you’re an apprentice running away from your master with stolen horses!”

“The horses are mine,” Raben declared. “Granted, my clan did take a hundred ten horses when we wiped out a slave raiding party who attacked us twenty years ago. We took the horses as partial payment for the death of our clansmen after annihilating the slavers.”

“I’ve heard stories of a slave raiding party that disappeared about twenty years ago,” one of the other guards said. “They left out of Miltenberg up north on the Main River. It was led by a supposedly invincible ex-centurion with a hundred mercenaries. I guess he wasn’t so invincible after all.”

“He was a tough bastard to kill,” Raben calmly said. “The clan Ianuarian at that time singlehandedly killed the entire raiding party while they slept before freeing the prisoners. The survivors swore the centurion came back to life after having his throat cut. The Ianuarian speared him to a tree then built a fire burning his body to ashes. After that they called him the Demon Slayer.”

“You seem to know a lot about the massacre of a Roman force,” the decanus growled.

“I’m a direct relative of that Ianuarian,” Raben answered. “It was not an official Roman party. They were all mercenaries. That’s why the Roman governor never sent out a force to find them.”

“They were still Romans,” the decanus grumbled. “They were never avenged.”

“After killing men as well as women, children and babies during their surprise attack on three villages they deserved no mercy,” Raben boldly stated. “They were without honor, cowards. They got what they deserved.”

The decanus lost it. Reaching up he grabbed Raben’s cloak violently pulling him from his horse.

Much to everyone’s surprise the boy added to the imparted energy to launch himself into a somersault over the decanus’ head, twisting about as he did so. When parallel to the ground and shoulder height to the grizzled snarky decanus Raben launched a savage kick striking the decanus on his helmet. The solid THUNK dropped the burly veteran like a rock while Raben landed on his feet with a Roman short sword in one hand and a wicked dagger in the other, both pulled from their sheaths inside his cloak, clearly ready to fight.

“I came in peace,” Raben declared in a hard no nonsense voice to the other stunned guards. “Yet I am attacked without provocation. If this is what Roman justice means, I understand why so many resist Roman rule.”

The other guards drew their swords exchanging wary glances as they tried to figure out how to handle the wildcat that had been unleashed.

“ENOUGH,” a voice bellowed from above.

Everyone looked up to see their Centurion, the commander of the fort, with four bow equipped guards with notched arrows aimed at Raben. The soldiers on the ground stepped back.

“Servus, you are the new squad decanus. Have the FORMER decanus taken to the infirmary, when he wakes up tell him he has been demoted to munifex. Young man, I assure you Rome is not a bully. You may enter.”

“Thank you, sir,” Raben bowed as he sheathed his weapons. “Like my predecessor I hate killing but I assure you I am quite deadly. Because of my small size I am often underestimated. You obviously saw my response to being pulled from my horse. I’ve grown quite accustomed to having to prove my ability to take care of myself. I could have easily killed all these guards.”

“It was quite impressive,” the centurion agreed. “I doubt I’d have believed such could be done if I hadn’t witnessed it. Are you any good as a healer?”

“I was the clan Ianuarian which means I was the best in our clan,” Raben answered.

“My wife is in labor,” the centurion said. “But there is something wrong and we all fear for the life of the child as well as her own. The midwife and local healer do not know how to solve the issue.”

“I can’t promise to solve the issue but I will see what I can do,” Raben declared.

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