Time on My Hands Chapter 29 - 273-285 CE: The Thebian Legion

Time on My Hands
Chapter 29: 273-285 CE: The Thebian Legion

Just after dawn 500 Palmyrene cavalry formed in the square. They carried unlit torches and buckets of burning charcoal to ignite them. Firmus emerged with his entourage to address the troops. As he spoke, gesturing for emphasis he stopped abruptly. Everyone was stunned to see the feathered end of an arrow had appeared in his mouth. As his body crumbled and twisted they could see the point was protruding from the back of his neck. His second in command was quickly down with an arrow in his heart. The troops reacted with shouting while seeking the assailant. Those on the steps with the now dead Firmus ran in panic. Six more high ranking officers were dropped before they reached cover. By then dismounted troops were rushing into the temple.

Fiach shifted her focus toward the officers of the scrambling cavalry. Ten were downed before they were able to take cover on the steps in the front of the temple. Leaning over the parapet she continued to fire into the milling troops. While shooting nearly strait down she wasn’t able to pick out the officers but each arrow hit dropping another soldier creating further chaos and terror. Those who had rushed into the temple could not find a route to the roof. None existed.

After dropping another fifteen soldiers she stood boldly and shouted. “I am the Demon Slayer! Unless you flee I will destroy you!” With that she resumed firing down into the milling soldiers. After dropping fifteen more men they broke. Some had witnessed the Demon Slayer at Zamrab, the rest had heard the tale, and they were terrified. Mounted men wrangled their steeds to push through to open air promptly breaking into a gallop to flee. With the higher ranking officers down, panic spread and more joined the flight. Other more disciplined soldiers rallied. Archers ran to the steps of the government building to begin returning fire.

By then Fiach was running low on arrows with eight left. She laughed as the archers targeted her. It was evident the archers were not marksmen, they had trained in group volley fire into charging masses rather than at a single target. Instead of seeking shelter she fired and dodged, snatching arrows that came near from the air while continuing to target them. By the time she ran out of arrows she’d dropped eighteen more archers.

By then a ladder had been found and some soldiers used it to gain access to the roof of the temple. Fiach charged them with sword and knife. Only five had clambered onto the roof when she slammed into them. The ferocity of her onslaught surprised them. They were trying to get their footing on the sloped surface as she laid into them. Two dropped with fatal wounds and one man slipped and fell screaming fifty feet to the ground. One of the fatally wounded men toppled against the ladder knocking against the man just stepping off. Both fell taking four men climbing the ladder with them. Their yells rang out. They landed on the men holding the ladder and the gathered soldiers waiting to ascend. Fiach quickly killed the remaining two men. Then tipped the empty ladder to the side sending it crashing to the ground. The man who fell against the ladder and the man he knocked off died as did one of the men on the ground and one of the other men knocked off. Six men suffered broken bones.

Fiach scrambled to the other side of the roof and began scrambling down. Chaos reigned as some tried to rally the scattered soldiers. Spilled buckets dropped burning coals throughout the area. Most landed on gravel or stone. A few bounced into flammable material. Fires erupted in several locations within two blocks of the square. In the confusion Fiach headed out of the city.

Three days later the Roman troops reached the city walls. The Palmyrenes understood they had three choices. They could die, be captured which meant enslavement, or escape. Roman ships had cut off escape by sea and they had been cut off from fleeing the city. Their only choice was to attempt to slip away in ones or twos. They still had not settled on a single commander to replace the ones Fiach had killed so they were unable to mount an organized defense. As the Romans broke through the walls the Palmyrenes tried to create chaos hoping to escape in the pandemonium. Remembering the chaos of the fires three days before they set fires throughout the city.

The Romans quickly overwhelmed the disorganized Palmyrenes with only a handful managing to escape. However one of the buildings set ablaze was the library. About a quarter of the collection was saved but the rest was gone. Fortunately, virtually all of those lost had been copied by Corvus Scriptorium and copies were safely hidden in the Barmaz archives with additional copies in the libraries of Barmaz and Mazbar.

Corvus Scriptorium did what they could to rebuild and restock the much diminished Library of Alexandria. Unfortunately it would never reach its previous prestige being only a shadow of its illustrious past.

With things settling down in Egypt, Fiach returned to Rome and Mazbar. Emperor Aurelia also headed to Rome, intent on ending the Gallic Empire. In March 274 the Roman legions met the Gallic Rhine troops in the bloody Battle of Chalons. The Gallic empire collapsed back into the Roman Empire. The surviving Gallic troops re-manned the Rhine Germanic border. Their losses severely weakened the border defense.

Throughout the province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae and the Allobroges portion of Narbonensis, Raben had a reputation for being a formidable fighter and was the only senator remaining in the area. As such he and the Clan Corvo had emerged as the major political power in the area without trying to do so. Everyone knew his primary aim was to keep his clan safe which also meant keeping neighbors safe. So it was no surprise when a delegation of local shepards approached him shortly after he returned to Barmaz. The winter had been harsh and a pack of wolves had moved into the region. The numerous flocks of sheep made easy pickings for the deadly carnivores. The frightened shepards tried but didn’t have the skills nor stamina to hunt the wolves much less kill them. Raben patiently listened to their tale of woe. That they came to him pleased him since it meant they trusted him and recognized his leadership. To the shepards’ relief he promised to eliminate the threat posed by the wolves.

Raben went to the last place the wolves had been sighted, then set out alone as darkness fell. Once all light was gone, Raben let off a series of howls that were quickly answered. The shepards huddled in their homes shivered as they heard wolf howls echoing across the Alpine valleys. As Raben moved towards the pack, they moved towards him. After three hours the confused wolves warily approached the strange human who spoke their language.

“I am friend,” Raben stated in the yips and yaps as the pack surrounded him. “I am a son of Ianuaria. Many years ago I treated injured wolves.”

“Ianuaria... she is legend... so is boy who healed wolves,” the alpha male warily answered.

“It has been many generations far to the north when I healed,’ Raben answered.

“You lie... are too young,” the alpha growled.

“I do not age,” Raben sighed. “I moved here. You come, terrify other men, they want to kill you.”

“We scare them,” the alpha snarled. “We kill them if they try.”

“For now, but you kill their sheep, they will hunt you down just as you have been hunted before,” Raben answered. “If you stay you will be killed.”

“We hunt sheep.. live,” the alpha declared. “Too many men... wild animals killed... need sheep.”

“There is another way,” Raben said. “Only I can give it to you. When I called you came from the place of walls. You know there are many sheep on the other side but the walls are too high to cross. That is my hunting ground. I’ll share it with you if you follow my rules.”

The alpha cocked his head. “Why you do this?”

“Because I don’t want to kill you,” Raben answered. “I’ll have no choice but to kill all of you if you don’t come with me.”

“I’m alpha,” the wolf declared as he growled menacingly.

“I challenge you,” Raben declared.

The other wolves backed away forming a circle 20 feet across as the alpha and Raben circled. The alpha lunged snapping to grab an arm. Raben danced away grabbing the wolf by his scruff leveraging himself onto the alpha’s back wrapping his legs around the wolf’s body while an arm circled his neck all the time avoiding the twisting head and viciously snapping jaws. The entangled duo rolled about clawing and snapping for several minutes. Raben was nipped, scratched and clawed drawing blood but stubbornly clung on. After a few moments Raben was able to lock both arms about the thrashing wolf’s neck and squeeze slowly choking the fierce canis lupus lupus. After five minutes fighting the alpha wolf finally collapsed. The other wolves looked on in shock as Raben stood and howled.

Then he knelt and breathed life back into the defeated former alpha. Returning to consciousness, the defeated alpha slowly climbed to his shaky paws. His tail hung down between his rear legs and his head was held low as he to looked at his bloody victorious opponent.

“Your wounds heal...” the ex-alpha stared in wonder.

“I told you I’m the son of Ianuaria,” Raben replied then looked at the clearly stunned on-looking pack. “As new alpha you will do as I say.”

The pack laid on the ground in submission as the former alpha tried to slink away as a lonely exile.
“I didn’t give you permission to leave the pack,” Raben snapped at the ex-alpha.

The wolf momentarily froze in mid-step afraid the human was about to kill him. Then he lay down and rolled onto his back exposing his belly in a sign of ultimate submission.

“Stand up, all of you stand up,” Raben said softly. “I lead my human pack with kindness, understanding and mutual respect. I’ll do the same with you. My responsibilities to my human pack will leave me little time for you. I will lead you but not day by day.” Then he looked at the ex alpha. “You are a good leader. But things are no longer like they used to be. The past is gone and will not be returning. I built those walls about my hunting grounds to protect my human pack from threats. I will lead you into that secure hunting ground but you will follow the rules I establish for you. I will depend on you to look after the pack for me. You are my beta and I hand the day to day leadership pack back to you.”

The former alpha now beta lowered his head in submission and acknowledgment.

In the morning the eyes of the shepards and farmers almost popped out of their heads as Raben came down from the mountains in his shredded bloody clothes playing his flute being followed by the five wolves. The stares continued all the way into Barmaz. Raben explained the wolves were his pack and would only take what they needed to live. They would take the old and infirm in exchange for patrolling the walls, especially the high snowy peaks in the southeast of Barmaz Bailiwick. The wild wolves quickly became a familiar part of the Barmaz Bailiwick.

Raben resumed his yearly circuit. Leaving Barmaz after the first week of October, 23 days traveling to Mazbar, staying through November, 12 days sailing to Zamrab, arriving in mid December and staying there through January, 53 days sailing back to Mazbar arriving the fourth week of March, staying in Mazbar through the end of April, then 23 days traveling back to Barmaz arriving the last week of May. That worked out to 4 1/2 months in Barmaz, 2 1/4 months in Mazbar, 1 1/2 months in Zamrab and 3 3/4 months traveling. Over the next years, except for the rocky mountain peaks, the boundary defense walls of Greater Barmaz were extended and completed along all the ridges.

The Goths launched a last major assault on Asia Minor in 275, where piracy by Black Sea Goths was causing great trouble in Colchis, Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia and even Cilicia. At the same time Aurelian gathered Goth mercenaries to crush the resurgent Persians only to be assassinated at the Bosporus in September 275. His successor, Tacitus, then had to crush the Goth mercenaries who began to plunder the region. After defeating them he headed to Gaul to repel Frank and Alemanni incursions, dying on the way of a fever in June 276 after a reign of just nine months. The army in the west chose Florianus, the maternal half brother of Tacitus to be emperor. Florianus led troops to repel a Goth incursion in Thrace. At that point the army in the east selected Probus as emperor. The troops of the usurper and Florianus met. While Florianus won the battle, it was not a decisive victory. His troops lost confidence in him and he was assassinated in September 276 after a reign of eighty eight days. Probus traveled west, defeating the Goths along the lower Danube in 277. In 278 Probus campaigned in Gaul against the Alemanni and Longiones who had crossed the Rhine while his generals defeated the Franks. Realizing it was impossible to hold the line of forts across Germany, the Limes such as Halheim, he abandoned the region falling back to the Rhine and Danube Rivers which were only 25 miles apart in southern Germany.

One of his principles was never to allow the soldiers to be idle, employing them in times of peace on useful works, such as the planting of vineyards in Gaul, Pannonia and other districts in order to restart the economy since much of those areas had been devastated by the near constant fighting. Probus began the strategy of settling the Germanic tribes in the devastated provinces of the empire only to be killed in September 282 by disgruntled soldiers who rebelled against his orders to drain marshes along the Danube. Carus was proclaimed emperor after Probus' death and avenged the murder of his predecessor then defeated the Quadi and Sarmatians on the Danube. Naming his sons Carinus and Numerian Caesars, he left Carinus in charge of the western portion of the empire and took Numerian with him on an expedition against the Persians beyond the Tigris avenging all the previous defeats suffered by the Romans against the Sassanid Persians. Further conquest were cut short by his death in July 283. Numerian and Carinus became co-emperors. In early 284 Carinus traveled to Rome to indulge in the pleasures of the city. The weary army in the east under co-emperor Numerian demanded to return home.

While Carinus had a good time in Rome in 284, Raben quietly met with the new Bishop of Rome, Caius, to discuss Christianity. Raben explained about his meeting with Judah the Prince to discuss the Angel Raphael/Ianuaria connection. Raben found himself almost agreeing to be baptized but held off. Corvus Scriptorium would continue to supply services to the Church in Rome and elsewhere. In return the wider Church would forward manuscripts and letters to the scriptorium for copying.

On the march to Rome, Numerian became ill and died, most likely poisoned. Diocletian was declared emperor by the eastern troops. Carinus led troops east to meet Diocletian heading west. The competing forces met at the Battle of the Margus River where Carinus was killed by his deserting troops in July 285.

Raben managed to stay out of the political turmoil while staying plugged in to the stuttering heartbeat of the stumbling Roman Empire. For the most part the Province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae and Allobroges avoided the worst of the political chaos and fighting. This was due in great part to Senator Raben taking the lead in public works. As the only senator, he was able to exert a great deal of pressure on the provincial governors. Using Corvus Construction he had sturdy stone bridges built across the Upper Rhone every four miles to connect the two sides and set about paving roads along both sides of the river connecting the bridges to every town and village. He did the same in the streams in the Allobroges area of Narbonensis but not across the Rhone. Along with the inherent isolation due to the mountainous terrain this kept the economy going and the population happy, unlike nearly every other province in the empire.

Diocletian instituted many reforms in an effort to stem the incessant invasions and bring political stability to the empire. The number of legions increased while the number of men per legion decreased. Many legions were recruited from barbarians newly settled in the empire. History as well as experience showed the Roman Empire was too large for one ruler so Diocletian divided it into two. He installed Maximian as co-emperor of the western provinces. The Edict of Prices was issued in an effort to control inflation, setting a cap on prices and a wage-freeze with punishment of death for violators. Despite this harsh punishment, black-markets grew. In an effort to prevent farmers from abandoning their land, he ruled farmers of rented property were never to abandon it. That edict was the beginning of serfdom.

In Gaul bands of brigands, roamed the countryside looting and pillaging. The brigands were made up of impoverished free peasants, runaway slaves and deserters from the legions, all who were trying to resist the ruthless labor exploitation of the proto-feudal manorial and military systems and all of the punitive laws and levies. Their leaders belonged to the local Gallo-Roman landowning class who rebelled against the grinding taxation and garnishing of their lands, harvests and manpower by the predatory agents of the Roman state. Maximian didn’t have enough manpower to hold the Germanic border and fight the brigands.

Diocletian ordered a new legion to be formed in Egypt with recruits from the vicinity of the city of Thebes. The normal procedure to do this was the commander of the new legion was appointed and he selected commanders for the ten cohorts. These men were given the responsibility to recruit their cohorts. The commander of the tenth cohort of the Theban Legion was a Christian named Maurice who recruited fellow Christians Candidus, Innocent, and Exuperius as his subordinates. All who joined the cohort were Christians. After training, Diocletian ordered the new legion to reinforce Maximian in Gaul to crush the brigands.

They arrived at the Adriatic port of Ravenna then, cohort by cohort, marched over the Poeninus Mons into the upper Rhone river valley to join the local troops of Maximian’s growing army. The troops camped in the Rhone valley after passing through the provincial capital of Forum Claudii Vallensium. The Christian cohort was camped just outside the village of Agaunum {PD St. Maurice} 9 miles north of the capitol under the walls of the Barmaz Bailiwick. Maximian was in the provincial capitol making plans to eliminate the brigands. As was custom, Maximian ordered the troops to make sacrifices to the gods of the Rome to insure the gods would look upon their campaign with favor.

Maurice’s cohort, being Christian, politely refused to make such a sacrifice. Maximian was stunned by their refusal. They were throwing the entire campaign against the brigands into jeopardy. After a second refusal a furious Maximian ordered the cohort to decimate {the practice of having ten soldiers who were friends kill one of their own} as punishment. Demonstrating they were willing to follow orders the cohort followed the brutal order by drawing lots to determine who would die. Maximian then ordered the survivors to make the normal pre-campaign sacrifice to the Roman Gods. The remainder of the cohort, now emboldened by the bloody sacrifice of their comrades, still refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Now incensed, Maximian ordered another decimation. Maurice sent a letter to Maximian declaring: Maximian was beyond enraged taking his personal bodyguard and provincial troops to execute the entire cohort.

Demonstrating their willingness to follow orders as well as their total faith in the one true God, the Christian soldiers dropped their weapons, knelt and offered their necks to the sword to be butchered in silence until the entire cohort of 600 men had been killed, the first Christian mass martyrdom.

Agaunum was just 4 miles upriver from Monthey and the Barmaz Bailiwick. Word of the incident quickly spread when the legate ordered able bodied men to immediately come to the village to bury the bodies. Raben was totally stunned by this self inflicted massacre that proved the devotion of the Christians to their God. He led a work party a hundred men strong from Barmaz to the bloody camp where another eighty local men were stripping then gathering the bodies, wrapping each in a plain blanket then stacking them like cordwood.

Upon arrival Raben confronted Maximian. Raben spoke clearly and openly. “I am Senator Raben Corvo. My estate overlooks this valley and I’ve brought men to assist in burying these brave soldiers. While I’m not a Christian I am familiar with them. By killing these men you have made them martyrs. Your soldiers, who respect dignity and bravery, witnessed the dignity and bravery of their deaths. By killing these men who clearly followed YOUR orders by so willingly submitting to their deaths, you have planted the seeds in the minds of the soldiers that the Christian God is more powerful than all the Roman Gods taken together. No Roman god who can elicit such devotion. You have accomplished the exact opposite of what you intended. You have shown the power of the One True God who promises an afterlife of luxury and ease if they remain true to their faith.”

“You little Senatorial bastard,” Maximian sneered. He knew Raben had attained senatorial rank for saving the life of Emperor Gallienus. “I should have YOU arrested and executed for treason!”

“At times you speak before you think,” Raben retorted. “Since when is speaking the truth treason? I support your rule just as my family has supported every Emperor since the reign of Severus. I have done nothing to question or threaten your rule. Please take this advice. Lead the troops down the river today. Get them away from here and keep them occupied so they don’t have time to think that YOUR arrogant orders caused this senseless massacre.”

Although furious at Raben’s audacity, Maximian realized the Senator was being brutally honest. His order to massacre the cohort had not been well thought through. All Raben had said was all too true, he had to move the troops away. Still, he didn’t like the small Senator. “Watch your back, little man,” Maximian growled.

“I always do,” Raben answered and nodded then put his head back and howled like a wolf.

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