Time on My Hands Chapter 6 - A Roman Companion

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Chapter 6: 195 CE: A Roman Companion

Raben returned to the tabernae then headed to a bed in the men’s dormitory. The men in the drinking hall exchanged looks of mystification.

The next morning Raben ate a bit of bread and cheese in the tabernae then headed over to the centurion’s home. The new mother was awake cuddling her newborn. After checking mother and child he pronounced both were doing well. He also went over the mother’s restrictions concerning bed rest and lifting restrictions as well as again cautioning her to wait a full day after taking the mandrake potion before nursing.

At the infirmary the medicus warmly greeted Raben. While older than the young healer the military doctor recognized the youth’s obvious skill. Together they checked on the three soldiers who had been severely injured and then skillfully treated. The trio were allowed to get out of bed and move about the fort but were cautioned to take things easy and to spend a week sleeping in the infirmary.

Centurion Didius entered the infirmary as the bandaged trio exited giving them a withering gaze as he did so. “Well Raben, has their prognosis changed?”

“If there is no infection and if he follows my directions the man with the broken jaw should be able to return to light duty in about three weeks and full duty in six,” Raben explained. “If he doesn’t follow my instructions, the broken jaw will not heal and will become infected killing him. The man with the broken nose should be able to return to light duty in one week, full duty in three. As for Ulixes, light duty in one week and full duty in two weeks.”

The centurion shook his head. “Three good soldiers down for stupidity.”

“I don’t know much about the Rome or her Legions,” Raben declared. “If I want to expand my medical knowledge, I’ll need to learn Rome’s ways so I don’t create more issues like those that arose yesterday. The next centurion I meet may not be as understanding as you have been.”

“I’ll tell you now if you hadn’t saved my wife and child, I’d have arrested you for what you did to my men,” Centurion Didius admitted.

“No offense,” Raben replied. “I thought that might be the case. Would you object if I stayed for a week to keep an eye on my patients? I’ll use the time to learn a bit about Roman ways. I can pay for my stay at the tabernae so you won’t be put out.”

“I’ll let the garrison know you’re staying and are under my protection,” Centurion Didius agreed.

The next six days were spent treating patients. Word of Raben’s skill spread quickly and people streamed into Halheim to seek treatment. With the permission of the centurion and with the local healer and the garrison medicus as apprentices, a lean-to tent was set against the town side of the walls of the fort to treat those in need. The two medical men were amazed at Raben’s skill and range of knowledge.

All newcomers were stunned when they met Raben. Most thought him to be a young female apprentice of the great healer they’d come to see. Many became upset at being told the truth that Raben was indeed the healer. Still, they warily allowed him to treat them. None left disappointed.

Infections were cleansed with vinegar then treated with natural antibiotics in mosses, honey, and mushrooms. Raben showed them that deep wounds need to be cleansed and sterilized with vinegar then sewn closed from the inside out. Honey made an effective topical ointment to keep infections starting until wounds scabbed over. Seven patients had crooked limbs from badly healed breaks. After meticulous prodding Raben explained he could re-break the bones and reset the bones. However, doing so would require surgery and weeks of recovery and there was a great chance of infection and death.

After consulting with their families three decided to let Raben repair the badly healed old breaks. In preparation a caldron was set up and brought to a boil. A sturdy table with tie down points was set up. Clean, dry boiled cloths were prepared. A brazier and small table were set up beside the operating table. The man with the badly healed leg was brought in along with his family. After he was dosed with pain killers and sedatives Raben explained what he was about to do and what they would be required to do once the surgery was completed. Once he had their agreement he gave them a last chance to back out.

Over the next two hours Raben strapped three firm boards about the leg to stabilize it, then cut open the leg exposing the mis-healed bone. With a hammer and chisel he tediously chipped away the ridge of misaligned healed bone before carefully cracking the bone. Several slivers of bone were also chipped off above and below the break. The bones were then realigned with the bone chips inserted into the gaps that resulted to act as a lattice like bridge to facilitate bone growth. The wound was then sewn closed and a forth board was used to make the leg immobile.

The next patients needed arms repaired which was a bit easier. The medicus had seen many war related injuries but had never seen anyone attempt what Raben had done. The entire town was buzzing about the healer’s skills. No one had ever seen a healer so young. They all realized the youth was indeed aa skilled Ianuarian.

Raben wound up staying in Halheim for a month to make sure the centurion’s wife and the three limbs he’d surgically repaired healed properly. During that time he continued treating people and training the local healer and the medicus. The young healer refused to set prices for his services asking that the patient and family pay what they can.

The thing that amazed the citizens and the Roman soldiers was that Ulixes had changed. A life long brawler as well as a skilled warrior, the severe beating delivered by a mere youth had broken through his tough guy facade. What really changed him however was the utterly expected change Raben had exhibited once the last attacker was down. Instead of savagely adding more damage he’d done a one hundred eighty degree turn from formidable fighter to skilled healer effectively healing those he’d just beaten. Never had he ever seen someone do that and such behavior had most certainly never occurred to him.

Truth be told Ulixes had never been happy. Growing up a poor orphan, a street urchin, he joined the Roman Army as soon as he was old enough. His rough abrasive attitude was the result of his harsh youth. The army had been his life, unsatisfactory as it was. The fact he’d been demoted really ate at him since he was awaiting his retirement after twenty five years. Veterans received the equivalent of thirteen years wages as a retirement bonus. With the demotion he’d lost quite a bit of money. What really had been bothering him for months was that he had no idea what he’d do once he retired. At forty two he had no civilian skills. The only bright spot was his growing friendship with Raben.

Two things sealed Ulixes’ change in attitude. First was Raben’s willingness to not only treat all who needed healing but his willingness to share his knowledge and skills with anyone who was interested. The second was that in the evenings, the 4 feet 10 inch, 95 pound youth could easily drink everyone in the tabernae under the table and get up the next day without a hangover.

When off duty Ulixes became Raben’s shadow. The youth’s open friendliness and willingness to help anyone was so opposite what Ulixis had experienced in his life. When his papers for retirement came through Ulixes asked Raben a question.

“My retirement came through,” Ulixes declared as they ate their evening meal. “I need to be out of the barracks by the end of the week. To be honest, before I met you I’d have never admitted that I’ve been afraid of retiring. I have no skills other than being a soldier. My only prospect is to become a mercenary. How would you like a crusty old man as a traveling companion? You’re so small and young most people will treat you like I did when we first met. My presence should eliminate those issues. I’m not asking for pay, food and a place to sleep will be enough.”

Raben could see how difficult it was for Ulixes to ask... no beg... to accompany his travels. “Having an older traveling companion might make things easier on my journey. If we do this, there may be times it might be best if we say I’m your grandson. If asked we’ll say the rest of our family is dead and you’re accompanying me to further my medical study.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Ulixes nodded. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen,” Raben answered since that had been his age when he received the Curse.

“Don’t get upset,” Ulixes said. “But if we’re going to present as grandfather and grandson, there are times it might be better for you to be my granddaughter.”

Raben shook his head. “I am often mistaken for a girl. I’ve had to fight way too many times to prove I’m male. Let me think about it for a bit.” Knowing he was both male and female Raben had often wandered what it would be like to present as a female. Living with the clan doing so had been impossible. Now... it might be safe to experiment.

Ulixes used part of his discharge pay to purchase a horse. Two days later on May 1 they set out from Halheim traveling south into the Roman province of Raetia. Raben had a scroll from Centurion Didius serving as a letter of introduction for Raben. After traveling about fifteen miles they stopped at a tabernae near the present day town of Neresheim {GM 48.974843, 10.277102}. Neither were accustomed to the joys of being on horseback on actual roads for extended periods. The next day they continued south for fifteen miles to the present day town of Lauingen {GM 48.974843, 10.277102} on the Danube River. In the morning they crossed on a wooden bridge and joined the main road heading upstream along the southern shore of the Danube.

They traveled sixteen miles on the main Roman road to spend the night in the town that became present day Gunzburg {GM 48.448907, 10.294966}. The next days were twenty four miles to Illerkirchberg {GM 48.335719, 9.996168}, eighteen miles to Emerkingen {GM 48.214974, 9.655855}, twenty miles to Mengen (Google maps 48.048402, 9.338291) and twenty one to Stockach {GM 47.849261, 9.008701} just inside the border of the Roman Province of Germania Superior. The next day was sixteen miles to Eschenz, Switzerland {GM 47.645863, 8.873191} just on the other side of the Rhine as it leaves Lake Untersee. From there the next several days saw them traveling thirteen miles to Winterthur {GM 47.492692, 8.727708}, twenty two miles to Baden {GM 47.468443, 8.306676}, twenty two miles to Olten {GM 47.345759, 7.904302}, twenty one miles to Solothurn {GM 47.213737, 7.536728}, a short fourteen miles to Brugg {GM 47.118356, 7.277400} near the northern end of Lake Bielersee, twenty four miles to Avenches {GM 46.875956, 7.036777}, twenty one miles to Moudon {GM 46.665726, 6.799555} then fifteen miles to Vevey {GM 46.464047, 6.861624} on Lake Geneva. Halfway through that leg they crossed into the Roman Provence of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. The next day they traveled around the tip of the lake and up the Rhone River nineteen miles to Monthey {GM 46.257974, 6.948662}. From there it was another thirteen miles to the provincial capital of Forum Claudii Vallensium at Martigny {GM 46.102775, 7.073969}.

During their eighteen day trek the duo discussed many things. At every overnight Tabernae stay Raben treated anyone who needed medical aid. Again he accepted whatever payment the patient could afford. The income was always more than what he spent. As they rode they talked. Raben learned of Ulixes’ harsh and often frustrating unhappy life. The man admitted Raben was the only good thing to have ever come into his life. Raben also recounted his life. That he was the smallest and youngest of triplets, adopted at birth by the clan Ianuarian when it became evident he’d be abandoned as too weak to survive. How he grew up at Erminlinda’s side learning about healing and herbal lore since he was old enough to understand.

On the fifteenth day of their journey Raben finally told of the slaver’s raid when he was fourteen, how his adoptive mother had been crucified, how he chased down the slavers and killed them all, and how he had burned the dead body of the ex-centurion Marcellus Gallio, then powdered his bones and teeth to dust. Ending the tale with how doing so had transferred the Curse to him.

Ulixes was silent as the rode for the next two hours. “That’s the slaving raid that never returned... twenty years ago... you were fourteen... you’re still fourteen.”

“I have not aged since gaining the Curse,” Raben stated. “Physically I’m still fourteen but I’m really thirty four.”

“That explains why you’re such a skilled Ianuarian,” Ulixes nodded calmly. “But if you were able to take out eight guards and cut the throats of ninety men while they slept before you received the Curse, you had to have awesome skills for your age.”

Raben explained how he had no friends and spent his free time in the forests, running, climbing trees, and learning to move silently. How he was able to develop an affinity with wild animals that allowed him to walk into a herd of deer. How he learned to defend himself against bullies often bigger than him.

He also explained that Marcellus Gallio had passed on his property and signet ring and that they were heading to the provincial capital to transfer the title to the property. Ulixes understood he’d truly latched on to a spitfire.

Raben, now using the name of Raben Gallio, headed to the offices of the Provincial Roman Governor. There he presented the signet ring that identified him as the heir of Marcellus Gallio, the retired deceased Centurion. It took two days and a few quiet bribes to have an amended deed for Barmaz prepared and pay the appropriate transfer taxes. The property consisted of the area drained by the Torrent De Barme, a tributary to La Vieze which flowed into the Rhone River.

Once that was settled Raben came to a decision. “I’ve been thinking about your idea that I sometimes appear as a girl. That does have merit.”

Ulixes nodded his agreement.

They headed to the forum and browsed the stalls. With a bit of haggling they purchased two of the longer women’s style tunics. They left the tabernae where they had been staying. Finding an isolated spot, with a bit of trepidation about his dual sexuality, Raben switched from a male’s tunic to a female’s tunic.

Ulixes chuckled. “It’s amazing. Anyone seeing you will naturally think you’re a girl. Simply by changing clothes you’ve switched gender.”

“Thank you... I think. Well, if I’m presenting as a girl I need a girl’s name,” Raben sighed as he’d already chosen a suitable name. “Fiachdubh, that’s Celtic for raven, an appropriate name since Raben means raven in German. My female name will be Fiach.”

Ulixes chuckled. He really liked Raben.

Raben was glad his disguise was solid but also a bit unnerved that the transformation had been so easy. They spent two days at a different tabernae with Fiach as the granddaughter of Ulixes. The youth was amazed at how differently people treated him. Where as a boy he’d been ignored and often scoffed at, as a girl most people treated him cordially. Most let her say what she had to say. However it was quite disconcerting to be leered at.

Raben changed back to presenting as male and they headed back thirteen miles along the Rhone River to Monthey which was at a height of 1640 feet above sea level. There they turned up the side valley of the stream La Vieze heading four miles to the village of Val-Illiez at a height of 2625 feet where they spent the night. The next day they continued upstream two miles through the village of Champery at a height of 3280 feet then another two miles where they left the La Vieze at a height of 3775 feet to follow the smaller tributary stream the Torrent De Barme.

On May 24 the traveling companions arrived at the land Raben now owned, the entire watershed of the Torrent De Barme. As they entered his bizarrely inherited land he began checking out his possession. The initial drainage area was heavily forested, 1000 feet wide and rose 165 feet over 1800 feet. The next 2000 feet was in a partially forested valley with a fairly flat bottom 1000 feet wide with ever steepening sides which became rocky and steep. The next 1300 feet rose 330 feet while the next 700 feet rose another 330 feet. In these areas were several irregular shaped small lower pastures delineated from the forested areas by stacked stone walls about two feet wide and three feet high. The dirt cart path zig zagged up the steeper climbs of the valley roughly following the stream. The multi building farmstead at Barmaz sat at a height of 4850 feet, a rise of 1075 feet over a linear distance of one and a tenth miles but was in reality double that because of the zig zag cart path. The upper pastures reached a heights of up to 5750 feet. The main farm buildings sat on a relatively flat middle pasture area 1600 feet deep and 3200 feet wide backed against a 500 feet wide north east facing 150 feet high vertical rock cliff with a tree covered scree 65 feet wide and 65 feet high. The wide bowl shaped upper pasture valley began at the top of the cliff and ran back 6400 feet with a narrowing width of 3200 feet to 1200 feet. There was quite a bit more land on either side of that but it was unusable being either rocky and precipitous.

The watershed of the Torrent De Barme, which Raben now owned, drains an area of 2900 acres. Sixty percent, 1740 acres, is to steep or rocky to be usable. Fifteen percent, 435 acres, is forested. Twenty five percent, 725 acres, is pasture. At 9051 feet the nearby multiple peaked mountain tops of Les Dents Blanches were one and a third mile due south of the farmstead. The melt water from the north slope flows into the land. The present day border of Switzerland and France runs along the south and west mountain top ridge of the Torrent De Barme watershed.

It was late afternoon when Raben and Ulixes topped the last steep incline from the valley into the lower pastures that held the farmstead. {GM 46.149067, 6.832021} The isolated and dead end location very rarely received visitors. They were quickly spotted by a woman outside the main farmhouse who grabbed a curved ram’s horn trumpet to let out a blast. Wisely they dismounted their horses and stood waiting. Over the next twenty minutes two men, one clearly older than the other, and a teen boy armed with staves or pitchforks came running from the various pastures. A wizened old woman stood in the door of the home while an middle aged woman and younger woman held staves outside the home on either side of the old woman. Once the men gathered protectively in front of the women Raben and Ulixes began to walk toward them leading their horses.

“We come in peace,” Raben declared as they stopped about twenty feet apart. “My name is Raben Gallio, the heir of Marcellus Gallio and the new owner of Barmaz. This is my traveling companion Ulixes. We have come from Forum Claudii Vallensium where I registered the change of ownership. I came to look over my holdings and to renew the agreements made with you as tenants of this farmstead.” With that he pulled a scroll from his saddlebag and held it out for the men to see.

The older man warily stepped forward to look at the scroll. While he couldn’t read, he recognized the seal of the provincial governor. “It’s been over thirty years since we last saw Marcellus Gallio. We’ve been fearing someone would wonder if he was dead and the farm would be taken over by someone seeking to exploit us.”

“I am taking over,” Raben answered. “I have no desire to exploit you. Unfortunately I know nothing about farming in these mountains and have no knowledge of the agreements you had to run the farm. I would like to learn and, if you are honest with me, make a new agreement so you can continue to live here. I will not be settling in at this time as I have things to do in Rome.”

The old man scowled a bit. “Do we have any other choice?”

“Other than killing me, no,” Raben answered. “But without me you’ll be at the mercy of the Romans.”

“Aren’t you a Roman?”

“Technically, no, although I’m the heir to the Roman, Marcellus Gallio. Actually, I’m a German from the Hermunduri tribe,” Raben explained. “Ulixes gained Roman citizenship by serving twenty five years in the Roman Legions. He’s only recently retired. We will not put you out of your home and have brought provisions which we’ll share with you. We’ll be happy bunking in a barn.”

The weapons, such as they were, were put up. The three women began walking toward the newcomers while a teen girl carrying an older infant, a small boy and a toddler girl stepped outside the house to watch.

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This is turning

Into a well crafted story with 3 dimensional characters.
I enjoy time shock stories too so this is going to keep me enthralled for a long time.


Wendy Jean's picture

There is Magic but is rare.

Raben Is A Fascinating Character

joannebarbarella's picture

This story has the potential to continue right up to modern times. I hope it does.