Time on My Hands Chapter 15 - 205-208 CE: Drafted by the Emperor

Time on My Hands
Chapter 15: 205-208 CE: Drafted by the Emperor

The sergeant nodded his head and the men began closing in.

“FUCKING ARROGANT STUPID ASS WIPES,” Fiach bellowed as she shook her head. Before anyone could react she squatted pulling the man she had been holding at knife point over her body as she deftly put the knife away. With a mighty heave she stood up lifting the man above her head as she threw him at the approaching guards taking three of them down.

Everyone froze with their eyes and mouths wide open in stunned disbelief that the small girl who seemed to be barely in her teens lifted the large man and literally threw him with seeming ease.

Fiach drew her sword and sprang at the three guards still standing before they could react. With a mighty swing she blasted a guard on the side of his helmet with the flat of her blade. The loud KLANG was muffled by the instantaneous THUD as the helm mashed into his head. Without pause she pivoted and did likewise to the next guard who quickly went down like the first man. By then she was facing off against the third remaining guard who was clearly scared. Without hesitation she attacked trading five rapid blows before smacking the side of his leg dropping him to the floor before knocking him out with a blast to his head.

The sergeant was gobsmacked as he watched Fiach dismantle his squad. By then the three men she’d initially dropped using the thrown man had scrambled to their feet in time to see Fiach take down the third man.

With a malevolent smile she sprung at them. As he backed up one tripped over the stunned thrown man and went down. Fiach quickly rang his chimes before he could get up. Then laughing she faced the other two. She tossed her sword straight up into the air twirling as it went. Before the two could figure out what she was doing her sling was spinning. Stone bullets to their helmets quickly dropped the pair before she reached out and caught her sword. Smiling intently she charged the sergeant.

The man was clearly terrified and barely had enough time to draw his sword to meet her attack. The clanging of striking blades echoed through the hall as she pressed her savage assault disarming the hapless man on the ninth stroke. The point of her sword pressed into his neck as sweat poured down his face.

“PLEASE NOTE NONE OF YOUR MEN ARE DEAD OR WOUNDED,” Fiach snarled. “I ONLY KNOCKED THEM OUT! If I’d wanted to kill them the fight would have been much shorter. Now, will someone PLEASE get the head of security?”

“Fiach! I would have guessed it was you raising hell but I didn’t know you were back in Alexandria,” Claudius Julianus, the Roman Governor of Egypt laughed as he led an entourage into the hall.

“I just arrived yesterday, Claudius,” Fiach replied as her sword disappeared inside her cloak. “I was hoping to speak to your head of security but you’re even better.”

By this time the sergeant of the guard was about to piss himself as it was clear the governor knew the small girl that had kicked his and his squad’s ass. The others in the room were equally surprised.

“I’m really not the one you need to talk to. Let me introduce my replacement, the new Governor of Egypt, Tiberius Claudius Aquila,” Claudius smiled. “Tiberius, let me introduce Fiach Longinus, the best physician and fighter I’ve ever met.”

“Actually my husband decided to change his surname to Corvo, so I’m now Fiach Corvo,” Fiach smiled with a nod.

“Corvo...,” Tiberius asked. “Any relation to Raben Corvo, the emperor’s sometime physician?”

“My husband,” Fiach answered.

“A physician and a fighter like your husband... and just as small,” Tiberius smiled. “Do you always go around beating up Roman soldiers?”

“Only when they attack me first,” Fiach answered. “Especially when I’m trying to help the Emperor.”

Tiberius smiled liking the spunky girl. “How can you help the Emperor?”

“I arrived to check on the Alexandrian office of Corvus Scriptorium which I founded on my last visit here,” Fiach stated growing serious. “Only to discover sixteen thugs had taken over the operation intending to use our regular shipping arrangements to make their way to Rome to assassinate Emperor Severus.”

The quiet murmurs that had grown amongst the onlookers abruptly ended.

“I realized something was wrong and as soon as I stepped off the boat at Zamrab Island they tried to attack me,” Fiach continued. “The fools didn’t know who I am. Three fell into Lake Mariout after I killed them and the crocodiles got them. The other thirteen are stacked on the deck by the Corvus Scriptorium dock.”

“Your bodyguards must be quite efficient,” Tiberius stated.

“I have no bodyguards,” Fiach replied. “I took them out by myself.”

That created a burst of conversation around the room.

Tiberius raised an eyebrow. “Were they inept fighters?”

“They were members of Niger’s bodyguards,” Fiach informed them. “They have been on the run for twelve years with a bounty on their heads. But like the guards here, they underestimated me.”

“Yes, I saw you take out seven experienced Roman soldiers without seriously wounding them and without suffering any wounds yourself,” Tiberius nodded. “Do you think there are more assassins?”

“I have no idea,” Fiach answered. “How many people want to see Emperor Severus dead? If it is an organized plot the sooner the emperor knows the better.”

“I’m leaving for Rome tomorrow,” Claudius stated. “I’ll personally notify the emperor.”

“Decanus, send a message to your Centurion to have a thirty man detachment ready to leave in fifteen minutes to accompany Fiach to her island to recover the bodies of these wanted traitors. We’ll discuss your ineptitude later.”

Two hours later the soldiers were ferrying the bodies of the thirteen dead traitors to the shore so the
authorities could verify their identities. Once they left, Jarl looked at his aunt. “You took a chance attacking that jerk at the governor’s office.”

“Not really,” Fiach smiled. “In Rome Raben met Tiberius when I was treating the emperor. I learned he had been appointed to replace Claudius. When we landed yesterday I saw him on the docks. In a friendly change of governors it’s normal procedure for the outgoing man to give the incoming man a tour of the city explaining important information. Then they have a sit down meal discussion. The next evening they hold the actual transfer at a formal dinner. They spend the day at the governor’s office reviewing matters and procedures. I knew they were in the office. Once I met the idiot in the lobby I knew he was trying to show off his ‘efficiency’ so I decided to knock him down, harshly. I knew if I made enough noise Claudius and Tiberius would come to see what was going on.”

“But fighting the guards,” Jarl declared.

“What fight? There was no fight,” Fiach smiled. “I sized them up when we arrived. Out of shape, out of practice, apathetic, and overconfident that no one would dare to start a fight. I just opened their eyes and taught them a hard lesson.”

“That guy... you lifted him over your head and threw him,” Jarl shook his head. “Was that strength part of your Curse?”

“Yes and no,” Fiach sighed. “I was always the smallest of my age mates so I was a favorite target. I had a choice, to let them physically dominate me or to fight back so intensely they’d leave me alone. I fought back. Just a week before the slaving raid I beat your uncles, who were a foot taller and weighed twice as much as I did, in a two on one match. For my size I was quite strong. The Curse enhanced my all my abilities. If I hadn’t been as strong, agile and had the stamina when I gained the Curse, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did this morning.”

The identity of the thirteen men were verified as being those from Niger’s bodyguard. The governor accepted Fiach’s word that three known associates of the dead had been the three that became croc kibbles. The reward was paid and Fiach shared it with the grateful employees of Zamrab. Over the next few months Jarl dove into the operations of Corvus Scriptorium. He also met and fell in love with the Kamilah, Paki’s daughter. Fiach approved the marriage. When she returned to Rome, Jarl stayed in Alexandria as second of command Corvus Scriptorium under the manager, his father-in-law.

Fiach arrived back in Rome at the end of March, 206 switching back to his Raben identity. After reviewing the business he left for Barmaz in mid May. The family understood they may never see Jarl again but were glad he’d found a wife and a career. The Clan Corvo was growing and adapting well to life in the Alpine environs. In some ways the winter was harsher than what they’d experienced in Germany. While there was more snow the farms were prepared to endure and food was ready available from their flocks and herds. They no longer had to go out on hunting expeditions.

The archives were still in like new shape with no sign of water penetration. The sealed terra cotta document storage cases were in pristine condition. Raben returned to Rome before the passes closed for the winter.

Upon his return Raben found a summons to meet Emperor Severus. At the meeting in early December 206 Raben was complimented on his wife’s fighting ability and spirit. Then the leader of Rome said he’d like to meet her. Thinking fast, Raben said she was out of town but that as soon as she returned word would be sent.

Shortly after the new year, with a bit of plotting Raben set out on a ‘trip’ to Athens. A few days later Fiach ‘returned’ to Rome. Several days later she met the emperor for an evening meal.

She explained that her marriage to Raben was primarily one of convenience although they truly did care about each other. She explained they were nearly identical in size and skills. In addition due to their diminutive size and other physical impediments they were unable to have children. They were both driven to excel in the practice of medicine. Their fighting prowess had developed as a matter of self preservation. Unfortunately they also were too much alike and extend periods of togetherness ended up in arguments. “We meet as our paths cross, spend a day or three together, then go our separate ways. It’s very difficult to get us together.”

The upshot was the Emperor was planning a long term major military campaign for the spring of 208. He wanted Raben and Fiach to head his medical corps.

Fiach replied she was flattered and knew Raben would also be pleased. “The main issue is we don’t work well together. The way we work is nearly identical and our egos clash too much to work side by side. Perhaps we could share duties, alternate being in charge every month or so.”

The emperor nodded. “Wouldn’t that disrupt the organization and chain of command?”

“Not at all,” Fiach smiled. “As I said, our methodology is identical. We could even switch out mid surgery with no difference in outcome.”

“Very well,” Severus nodded. “Keep your schedules open from next March.”

On the first week of February of 207 Raben headed to Alexandria to check on Jarl and show HIS face to the staff on Zamrab. The visit was pleasant. Jarl was about to become a father and had easily slipped into position as second in command. Confident things were going well, at the end of March he set sail for Rome, arriving at the end of May.

In August Fiach then made a trip to Barmaz. There she reported on Jarl and learned his mother had died during the previous winter. This saddened her as once more it drove home the fact she had to watch those she loved grow old and die while she remained forever youthful. She returned to Rome in Mid October just before the snows closed the pass.

Raben mustered with the legions and auxiliaries at the end of February 208. He summoned the head physicians of each unit for a meeting in Coliseum in Rome as matches between gladiators were taking place. They gathered in an infirmary on the outside perimeter of the ground level. Needless to say they were not happy to have a non-military physician placed in overall medical charge. When they met Raben they were outraged that a barely teenager had been assigned as head physician assuming it was obviously a case of patronage. Disgruntled they kept their disgust to themselves afraid to risk raising the ire of the emperor.

“I know you think I’m young and not qualified. Although I don’t look it I’m forty seven years old.” Raben explained over the dampened noise of the crowds in the stands. “I grew up in Germania Magna training under my clan Corvo. Thirty three years ago a Roman civilian slave raiding party attacked three villages, killing many including my adopted mother. Many were captured and taken. I followed and once they camped and asleep I killed the sentries with a bow and arrow. Then I slipped in and cut the throats of those sleeping. I killed ninety eight in all. I spent the next twenty years as the clan’s Ianuarian. While I was doing an outstanding job, I was not satisfied. I trained a few replacements then crossed the border into Roman Territory. I’ve treated the emperor dozens of times since I first met him nearly thirteen years ago when I accompanied Galen. With my wife Fiach I’ve spent months in Athens consulting with Greek physicians. She spent three years in Alexandria and she has shared the knowledge she gained there with me. We’ve treated civilians as well as men wounded in battle. We’ve also killed men in battle. My wife is co-chief physician and will be joining us at some point on the expedition. We are well qualified physicians and equally deadly at fighting. The emperor is aware of her abilities and thus appointed her to share the position of chief physician with me. She looks as young as I do.”

The physicians clearly didn’t believe Raben. While they remained silent the expressions on their faces spoke volumes.

The door opened and four men carried in a wounded gladiator on a stretcher. Raben guided them to a table where they placed the injured man and left.

“I know you still doubt my medical skills so please watch,” Raben ordered.

An attendant stood by a smaller table that held supplies and Raben’s med kit. The man had deep cuts on his arm and leg. The forearm was cut to the bone.

Raben explained what he was doing as he did it. He first had the assistant administer mandrake root potion sedating the pain wracked man as Raben stuffed moss in the thigh wound and did a quick wrap with cloth to stop bleeding. Then he turned to the arm. The physicians intently watched as he cleaned the wound. They were amazed as he washed the wound with vinegar, then began the nearly impossible task of sewing the blood vessels and arteries back together. Then the tendons and muscles were reattached. Lastly the wound itself was closed and a splint put in place. Then he cleaned and repaired the cut on the gladiator’s thigh.

“That’s how I treat wounds,” Raben said as he looked over the amazed physicians. “Most of you would have amputated the arm. What I did saved the arm. With proper therapy he should be able to make a full recovery. I understand that when there are a lot of wounded you may not have time to do the meticulous work I demonstrated. You’re already aware that military physicians need to make decisions as to who you can save and who will die. At times, ending a man’s life is the best treatment. My adopted mother, the clan Ianuarian who raised and taught me, had been crucified by the slave raiders. I found her barely alive and could not get her down on my own. She told me that when death is unavoidable and the patient is suffering greatly, as it was in her case, in such circumstances helping a person die with dignity is better than prolonging their agonized life. I gave her a fatal dose of mandrake root. My wife and I do not feel this goes against our oath to do no harm because sometimes prolonging life is an agonized torment for a terminal patient. To end the unceasing pain by easing death in such cases is the best way to help a patient. As military physicians you have treated such patients. A quick painless death is sometimes a blessing when there is no hope for survival.”

The physicians didn’t reply as all had covertly eased unavoidable deaths.

“I recommend each medical unit recruit an older experienced physician who is no longer able to take the strain of battle medicine. Provide him with assistants. Their job will be to triage wounded as they come into the field hospital. The physician will decide who can be saved and who can’t BEFORE they reach the operating tables which will speed up your treatment. For those who can’t be saved, mandrake root can ease their death.”

“My wife and I will do our best not to step on your toes,” Raben assured the gathered physicians. “If we know of a better way to treat a patient we will suggest it and explain our reasons. We ask that you be open to our suggestions. By the same token, if you see a better way to do something, please tell us. We are always willing to expand our knowledge. Please remember, all physicians want the best outcome for their patients. The primary goal of the Imperial Medical Corps is to keep the soldiers fit for duty.”

The gathered physicians begrudgingly admitted Raben indeed had awesome medical skills and his ideas for a triage team made a lot of sense. While they still had difficulty believing his claim to be forty seven years old they begrudgingly accepted his appointment as head of the medical corps.

Severus decided to invade Caledonia (PD Scotland) since raids and attacks on Roman Britain were increasing. In 195 CE Albinus, then Governor of Britannia, led most of the legions in Britannia into Gaul during his revolt against Severus. They had suffered large casualties at the Battle of Lugdunum. The under strength defeated units were sent back to their posts after the defeat. This left the legions along Hadrian's Wall undermanned making it easy for the Caledonians to raid into Roman Britannia. The Caledonians were also able to gather more men for these raids than before due to increased cooperation among the different northern tribes.

The problems with Caledonia went back to the Roman invasion of Britannia. The natives resisted. Before he became the emperor Julius Caesar invaded Britannia in 55 BCE and again in 54 BCE but withdrew both times. In 43 CE Emperor Claudius ordered four legions to conquer Britannia. In 77 CE Agricola became the Roman Governor of Britannia completing the conquest of Wales and northern Britain. He earned a good reputation as an administrator and as a commander, by reforming the widely corrupt grain levy. He instituted what became standard Romanizing measures. First was to encourage communities to build towns on the Roman model. The second was that sons of conquered native nobles were ‘invited’ to relocate to Roman cities to be educated in the Roman manner. This provided hostages who when they returned home as adults had been Romanized and as nobles then moved their native customs toward Roman norms.

Agricola also expanded Roman rule north into Caledonia pushing his armies north into Caledonia to the Firth of Tay to establish forts. The Caledonian tribes and clans did not cooperate, so what resistance occurred was put up by small groups which were easily crushed. By 83 CE the Caledonians realized they had to unite to overcome the Romans. The Romans faced the massed Caledonians at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Eleven thousand Roman Auxiliaries with cavalry support decisively defeated a force of thirty thousand Caledonians. Battle casualties were estimated to be about ten thousand on the Caledonian side and a very lopsided three hundred sixty on the Roman. Even though the Caledonians decisively lost the battle, two thirds of their army managed to escape and hide in the Highlands or the "trackless wilds" as the Romans called them. Agricola’s forces established it’s northernmost camp at Crowder northeast of Inverness by the Moray Forth. In territories the Romans were unable to conquer and control they devastated the land destroying every village and farmstead while taking all crops and livestock. The ruthlessness crippled the ability of the Caledonians to organize attacks Roman Britain for a hundred years.

It was mid April 208 when Emperor Severus with his wife Julia Domna, son and co-emperor Caracalla, and youngest son Geta arrived in Britain with around forty thousand men. They immediately marched north to Hadrian's Wall. Raben rode north with the royal party.

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