By Mark Crocker
Merryn walked up the little lane until it reached the main forest road. Once she set foot on the road she levitated herself about three feet of the ground and started to head east up the forest road at about twenty miles an hour. As Merryn traveled down the forest broad she had to duck from time to time to avoid low branches and the odd fallen trees. It wasn’t really a road in the true sense of the word. It was more of a well traveled track that was wide enough for a cart yet not rutted up or paved. In winter when it rained hard or snowed the road became almost impassible at times and at those times Merwyn would get the locals to help him keep the road open by either removing the snow or draining the puddles that formed.
As Merryn moved down the road she grumbled to herself about how unfair it was that she was being sent off on what Merwyn had called a secret mission. She would have much preferred to of stayed at home and listened in to what Merwyn, Bastet and the elders would be talking about. The only reason she could think of that Merwyn would send her off on her mission was that she had spent some years in Rome and had got to know a lot of people high up.
Merryn giggled to herself as she thought about her first meeting with little boots as she liked to call the then heir to the emperor’s throne. Merryn smiled to herself as she remembered the first time she had meet little boots at the island court of Capri of the then emperor Tiberius. She remembered the long conversions she had had with little boots while she had shape shifted into the form of a middle aged man. She had to be careful while there not to get drunk or fall asleep. For if she had got drunk or fallen asleep she would at once return to her normal female form and that was the last thing she wanted.
But the conversions with little boots had intrigued her as he was highly intelligent and quick witted and nothing like the rumors that had been banded about after his murder. As Merryn drifted along she thought about why little boots had been killed. True some of his antic had been wildy outragous. But they had been goal driven and a means to an ends. But little boots had had plans that would have changed everything in the Roman Empire.
Merryn thought back to that first meeting with little boots on the island of Capri at the palace of the emperor Tiberius. The palace was on the top of the highest point overlooking the roman’s called the Mediterranean Sea. The palace was a dark place filled with fear, dread and an unbelievable stench of death. Merryn had come to the island with Bastet who had come to trade citrus and silk for gold. As Bastet had put it “You have to put up with the bad to get the good”. But the look on Bastet’s face of utter disgust said far more than the words she had spoken. Merryn’s heart had gone out to poor little boots as she knew that what was going on at the palace was changing and corrupting little boots.
Tiberius had absolute power and lived a life of corruption and drunken debauchery. The only thing that matter to Tiberius was his own pleasure and nothing was beyond his corrupted idea of pleasure and Merryn was glad when she had finally left the stench of the palace. Then when little boots had become emperor the rumors went around that he had murdered the old emperor and was plotting to kill the old emperor’s son that he had to share power with. One of little boots very first acts was to give his personal body guard two years worth of pay in one lump sum on top of their normal pay. Then he had given the head of each house hold in Rome a personal cash gift to win them over.
The following day Merryn had done to the young emperor first as a rich merchant and then as herself having shape shifted back to her normal form. That night little boots sister had invited her back to join her in his private rooms where the three of them had enjoyed some private time. Once little boots and his sister had fallen asleep she had slipped into little boots mind to see what he was really up to. Merryn had been shocked by what she had found and seen in the young emperor’s mind. A mind tormented by unspeakable horrors, the murder of his father then of his older brothers and lastly by the torture and death of his mother. Then she had seen how the old emperor Tiberius had corrupted him and worked his own evil magic on the poor scared young man. Little boots sanity teetered on a knife edge so Merryn had spent most of the night working on his tattered ego until the horrors of his young life where more manageable for him and did not seem as bad and as horrific. But she had realized that she would never be able to make him fully sane and that he would slowly sink into insanity.
But Merryn had also seen the great plans that little boots had and that he wanted total power and that he planned to do away with the senators or at the very lest make them do his bidding and control them so that he could live the life he wanted and make his empire even greater. But then suddenly little boots had fallen very ill and the general in charge of his personal body guard had betrayed him thinking that he was going to die. But once little boots had recovered, he had changed and the true nature of little boots had been covered up started to come to the forefront. To hold onto power in Rome you had to be cruel and hard. But now little boots mental health issues started to come to the forefront.
The list of mental heath issue was long. Glutten, sex addict, alcoholic, sadomasochist the list was long and Merryn felt bad that she had been unable to return to help the young emperor overcome his mental health issues. But it was not surprising that he had so many after all from the age of seven he had lived in a world full of murder and torment and then when he had joined the old emperor on the island of Capri at age seventeen and seen what absolute power was, he was bound to develop issues. But there was still one control in his life that helped to stop him from descending deeper into to the depth of depravity. And that was his sister that he adored and loved beyond anything.
It was little boots sister Drusilla who really controlled things. It was she that ran his house even though she was married. But her husband was happy with the way things were what with being married to the sister of little boots. Besides that made him next in line for the emperor’s throne if little boots was to die, matters where helped by the fact that Drusilla’s husband preferred the company of his peers to that of woman.
Drusilla had let little boots live the life that he thought an all powerful emperor should. Drusilla had even realized that Merryn was not human and had in private referred to her as Venus as that’s was who she thought she was. Merryn had been saddened at the death of the very beautiful and somewhat kinky Drusilla and had planned to return to Rome for the funeral of Drusilla but she had been unable to due to a storm and then Bastet talking her into a long trade mission to get silk.
Merryn popped out of the forest surprised at how quickly she had gotten there. But she had been deep in thought and had not noticed that much time had passed or how far she had traveled up the forest road. She stopped her floating and then floated up to about three hundred feet so that she had a clear view of the surround area. Merryn could see the roman camp on the far side of the plain and off to the north she could see the hill fort of Hembury behind her and to the northwest was the settlement that the elders had come from. Merryn scanned the forest looking for human auras and only saw a few and those auras she knew. The Romans seemed to be staying mostly to the east. But Merryn has seen signs of freshly felled trees on the western side of the forest but it was unclear whether it was the Celts or the Romans who had felled the trees.
Merryn remained invisible and flew over the roman camp and headed towards the forest on the eastern side of the roman camp. About a mile past the eastern edge of the forest Merryn descended until she reached ground level where she stopped levitating and found a spot to sit down and recover. But out of caution she kept herself invisible so that if a patrol came by she would not be noticed. As Merryn sat catching her breath her thoughts went back to little boots.
Many had said that little boots was insane and they often cited incidences of his behavior such as the time at a banquet with high ranking senators he had invited his horse to join them and had fed his horse out of golden bowls. When asked why his horse had been invited to dinner all he said was “I’m thinking of making him a consul. What little boots was really saying to the senators was “you are useless. My horse could do your jobs” but the point had been lost on the senators who failed to see what he was saying and only took it as an insult.
And then there was the attempted invasion Britannia where he had his soldiers collect seashells on the beaches of Gaul. The there was his bridge to nowhere was another incident that many used to say that little boots was insane. Little boots had built a pontoon bridge from the city of Pozzuoli to the city Baia. Then he had marched over thirty thousand horsemen and soldiers from Baia to Pozzuoli and threw a party for them while the rich town folk had watched in horror as the soldiers and horsemen got drunk and wild. Then the following day little boots had marched them all back across the pontoon bridge he marched them all back to Baia and threw another wild party with some of the party goers falling into the sea and drowning. To some this was proof enough that little boots had lost his mind.
The final straw that had brought little boots down was then he declared that he was a living god and then ordered that the capital of the empire was to be moved from Rome to Egypt and the city of Alexandria. The end of little boots had been swift and fast. But all that he had done was goal driven and that goal had been total power over everything and everyone. His murder was well planned and thought out. It involved senator’s slaves and even his personal body guard. But the bloody aftermath while necessary had shocked many. The murder of his wife was not necessary but the murder of his child was as if there was any blood relatives left the senators would not get what they wanted and that was a republic. But little boots personal body guard had other plans. For if the empire returned back to a republic they would lose all power. So they hunted down the one man that they thought they could control and that was who little boots called “the stuttering fool”.
Merryn looked up the road and then down the road. She then closed her eyes and scanned the area looking for roman aura’s and seeing where the patrol were. Then still invisible she head up the road until she was almost two miles away for the edge of the eastern great forest. Once Merryn was far enough away from the marching camp she stepped out on to the road and made herself visible. Then she shape shifted into her favorite male form which was that of a man in his mid thirties. She changed her clothing into that, that a roman courier would be wearing. Once she was happy at how she looked she started to jog at a steady pace westward along the forest road.
Once she came out of the forest having been stopped only once by a patrol she looked around to see if anyone had run ahead of the patrol to inform the marching camp that a runner was coming. Merryn was surprised that there was not a guard waiting for her nor did they seem unduly worried by a lone runner coming from the east down the forest road. Once at the marching camp gate she was stopped and asked for papers and to explain what she was doing.
With a smile that was all charm Merryn reached out with her coercion and the guards at the gate just stepped out of the way and waved her though. She jogged up the main internal road towards where the headquarters tent would. She was glad that the internal layout of every roman fort or marching camp was pretty much the same. It did not matter if the camp was in Gaul or Judea or if it was in Thrace or Britannia the layout was the same. The fort defenses might be different shapes but once inside everything was the same. And always at the center was the headquarters building or tent.
Merryn arrived at the headquarters tent and saw two guards standing in the entrance way in full armor with javelins in their right hand and their left hand resting on their shield. As Merryn approached the guards the crossed their javelins and both said in one voice “halt”.
The guard to the left spoke “State your mission”.
Merryn reached out again with her coercion and both guards uncrossed their javelins and opened the tent flaps to let her pass.
Once inside the tent Merryn looked around quickly and saw a suit of armor in the corner and a curtain sectioning the tent in two. In the section Merryn could see was a large table where one solider dressed in a soldier’s toga and another soldier still in full armor minus his helm stood with there backs to her.
The solider in the toga did not turn his back but spoke and waved his arm pointing to the tent flap “Wait outside please”.
Merryn did not move and after a few moments the solider in the toga turned and looked at Merryn in the male form she was still using.
The solider at once straighten his shoulders looked at the solider that was in full armor and then spoke softly.
“You better go and we will finish this up tonight. I think I have an important message from the emperor”.
The solider in full armor turn saluted and then left.
Merryn looked around and saw a chair which she the seated herself in before looking the solider up and down with a measured look.
“Merryn take that dam fool look off” said the solider with a dry smile.
Merryn shape shifted back to her normal female form and smiles. “It’s good to see you Plautius”.
“I take it this is not a social visit” said general Plautius. “But I must comment that you seem to be far from your home”.
“Sadly it's not” Merryn said with her smile fading. “I’m here at the request of my father”.
Plautius looked hard at Merryn for a moment marshalling his thoughts “your father? I did not know you had a father”?
“Merwyn would like to talk with you” Merryn said ignoring Plautius comment. “My father wishes that you come and visit him as soon as possible. Sooner would be better than later”.
“Merwyn is your father” Plautius said looking shocked and visibly shaken.
“I see you have met my father or at lest heard of him” Merryn said with a sly smile spreading across her face.
“I can’t leave here now” Plautius said shaking his head and reaching for a wine goblet that was on the table. “To travel all the way to Gaul to meet with Merwyn is out of the question”.
“He’s not in Gaul” said Merryn starting to enjoy herself at Plautius discomfiture. “He’s at his home waiting for you”.
“His home is not in Gaul” asked Plautius as he downed the wine in one swallow.
“No” said Merryn “as my father told me to say “I would like to see the general in charge at his soonest convinces”. And well I want to get back as I missed lunch to get here”.
Plautius walked to the tent flap lifted it and spoke to one of the guards outside saying “Two horses saddled and make it now”. He then turned back to Merryn smiled before walking over and entering the sectioned off part of the tent. When he returned he had a heavy riding cloak which he was putting on.
Merryn shape shifted back into male form and together they walked out of the tent.
Plautius then turned to the solider that had been in the tent when Merryn arrived. “If I am not back in two days move the army east to the other side of the forest and send word to the emperor that I am missing. And no questions please, I will explain everything when I return”.
Together Merryn and Plautius started to walk towards the two horses that where being led down the main north road of the camp. Once they reached the horses Plautius mounted his horse while he watched Merryn struggle to mount hers. Then together they rode towards the west gate.
Once outside the west gate Merryn dug her heels into her horse’s flanks and set off at a fast gallop towards the western forest. Plautius followed hard trying to catch up with Merryn. After about three miles of fast galloping both horses started to show sign of tiring and slowed to a canter.
Merryn turned to Plautius and smiled before she spoke. “I hate riding horses”.
“You ride very well. Better than most men I know that where born around horses” Plautius said.
As they neared the forest Merryn pulled her horse to a halt and looked at Plautius with a sly and playful smile. “How far do we have to go” said Plautius.
“Oh about 10 miles more” said Merryn letting her horse rest. “It should not take to long as long as we keep moving”.
Plautius was about to speak when he noticed that while the horses where standing still in fact they were moving and picking up speed.
“What made you think my father lived in Gaul” Merryn asked as they moved down the forest road.
“I met Merwyn in Gaul when I was helping the last emperor put down a revolt” said Plautius.
“I was saddened by little boots death” Merryn said with a sad tone entering her voice.
“Caligula was insane” said Plautius “We are far better off without him. When we were putting down the revolt I lived every moment in fear for my life. Just one wrong word and I would have been dead”.
“I had heard that he was insane but I would never have believed it” Merryn said thoughtfully. “Its just when I met him he seemed so nice and friendly”.
“He was sane before his sister died” Plautius said “But after she died he seemed to have changed. But then losing a lover can be heard”. Plautius paused for a moment before continuing. “You do know that the rumors had them as lovers. But well after she died he turned in on himself and then once he came out mourning he had changed and seemed to take his grief out on everyone around him, if you ask me he took get pleasure in watching people suffer”.
“I know they were lovers” Merryn said quietly. “I spent some very enjoyable nights in their company” Merryn turned and looked at Plautius. “You know she was the one in control and many of his early ideas where hers. She controlled him and kept him in check”.
Plautius was silent for a while then he looked at Merryn. “How do you make us float”?
Merryn looked at Plautius for a moment and then smiled “I just do. I think about moving something and it moves”.
“You mean you just think about it. That’s all”?
“Pretty much” Merryn said. “I reach out with my mind like you reach out with a hand” Merryn paused for a moment in thought and then smiled again at Plautius “I never really give it much thought. It’s like my shape shifting. I just think about what I want to look like and that’s it. I become what I want to look like” and with that Merryn shape shifted back to her normal female form.
“Is that what you really look like” ask Plautius.
“Yes this is the real me. This is my real skin color, this is my real hair and hair color. As you see me now is as I really am”.
“I prefer your female form” said Plautius. “Me too” Merryn said with a giggle “A specie that has female and male is so enjoyable”.
They traveled on for a long while without talking. Then they started to slow down and Plautius became aware that they were getting lower to the ground and finally the horses hoofs made contact with the ground. The horses seemed unaware that they had been flying and did not seem worried that they had traveled faster then they had ever traveled before. Once the horses hoof settled to the ground they trotted along as if nothing odd had happened.
Merryn stopped her horse and looked at Plautius “Down this little track way”.
They traveled down the track way until they rounded a corner and there was Merwyn’s house.
“Different” said Plautius.
“Different? Different how” Merryn asked looking a little confused.
“I thought it would be a round house like the Celts live in not a two story villa like building”.
Merryn dismounted her horse almost falling flat on her face.
Plautius did likewise without being clumsy like Merryn had. Together they walked the horses to the barn and Merryn led them to the stalls that were sometime used when visitors came to stay over night. As they walked to the house they saw a war chariot. Plautius stopped and looked at Merryn then at the war chariot.
Merwyn and the two elders sat in the living with Rabbo sitting in a chair next to Merwyn beside the fire.
Athena was sitting by the window and had opened the curtains after lunch to let in the afternoon sun.
“You realize” Merwyn said “That if you drive the romans out trade will be harder. They will put an embargo on things that are being shipped to here from their empire”.
“There will always be trade” said the second elder. “People like Bastet will always come or get though”.
“True” Merwyn said “But the cost will go up and if that happens the roman’s will return in force. All you will do is by pushing them out is push the problem of the roman’s away so that your children or grand children will have to face the issue”.
“I have idea or rather a thought” said Rabbo sitting up on his hind legs so that he was eye to eye with the elders. “It seems to me that if you want to have olive oil, wine, citrus, silk and healing herbs from far away it would be better to let the romans in as the trade price will go down. They too like wine, olive oil and they will want that and they will bring it with them. The way it seems to me is that working with the roman’s all you would have to do is pay lip service to them and go on pretty much as you have been”.
Merwyn nodded to Rabbo and then looked at the elders. “I could not have put it simpler myself”.
“So if we let the romans in and pretend to follow their customs we will come out with a higher standard of live” said the second elder looking at Rabbo thoughtfully.
“I don’t agree” said the first elder. “There are a lot of if and buts. And I don’t like dealing in if and buts”. The first elder paused and looked at Rabbo before he continued. “If we let them in. If we pay lip service. If they lets us keep our old ways. If they bring the items you mentioned. If the don’t force their ways on us. If, if, if. What I want to do is deal with is facts”.
“Would it help if you spoke face to face with the general leading their army” Merwyn said with a tight lipped smile.
Both elders nodded.
“But that’s not going to happen now is it” said the first elder.
Merwyn smiled and looked at both elders.
Merwyn turned and looked at Athena. “Could you ask our guest to join us please”.
Athena stood up looking somewhat surprised and walked to the door. She turned back and looked at Merwyn before she opened the door.
Merryn and Plautius sat at the kitchen table eating a light late lunch. There was cheese boiled eggs bread and cold roasted chicken.
“This more than makes up for you dragging me away from my headquarters” said Plautius as he put a slice of cold roast chicken on the bread.
“It nice that someone other than Merwyn enjoys the food around here” said a voice coming from the darkest corner of the kitchen.
Plautius half turned to see where the voice was coming from but was unable to see in the gloom of the back of the kitchen who was speaking.
“Your daughter” said Plautius looking at Merryn.
Merryn laugh softly “No not my daughter”.
The voice had a soft feminine tone to it that a young girl would sound like.
“Oh she wishes I was her daughter” said the voice taking on a slight sarcastic tone.
“Knock that off” Merryn said not even turning around to look at the speaker.
“Merwyn’s daughter” Plautius said he comment more of a question.
“No I’m not the old farts daughter either” said the voice.
“Well without seeing what you look like its hard for me to tell who you are” Plautius said trying again to see into the gloom. All he could see was a chair with what looked like a large stuffed rabbit. “It couldn’t be the stuff rabbit that’s talking. It had to the owner of the stuffed rabbit that was speaking” Plautius thought to himself.
“I hear your thoughts” said the voice “and I am stuffed. I’m stuffed on dandelion flowers and fresh greens”.
“Oh stop teasing him” said Merryn.
“She umm he umm it must be one of that giant talking rabbit of Merwyn’s” said Plautius looking at the now almost fully visible rabbit.
“He’s clever and smart” said the voice.
“You are being mean and rude” Merryn said finally turn all the way around so she could see soft eyes.
Soft eyes hopped down from her chair in the corner and hopped over to Plautius. She stood up on her hind legs and looked Plautius up and down. She then moved closer and then rested her front paws on Plautius’s bare leg.
“Hmm” Soft eyes said thoughtfully. “A bright aura that’s a rarity’.
Just then a door opened and in walked Athena. She stood and looked at Plautius and then looked at Merryn.
Plautius looked at Athena with a look of amazed shock. “You um you look um like a stature I once saw in um. I’m sorry just that you look like the stature of the goddess Athena in um Athens”.
“Very possible” said Athena look at Plautius. “My father will see you now”.
Plautius stood up and walked towards the door. There was neither the feeling of dread nor any feeling of fear, rather a feeling of bemusement. Almost as if he had gone from the world of mortals into the world of legends and the world of the gods.
“Plautius please join us” said Merwyn standing up to greet him. “It’s been so long. How is your father”?
“My father pasted two years ago” Plautius said.
Plautius looked around and saw two Celtic elders seated next to a giant rabbit.
The two elders also stood up and looked Plautius up and down as if he was a dangerous animal of some unknown kind.
Plautius nodded to Merwyn and then looked at the two elders who stood facing him. He reached out with his hand and arm in the manner in which Gaul’s greeted each other.
The second elder stepped forward grasped has forearm halfway up. Plautius did the same and he and the second elder looked each other in the eye.
Then Plautius released his grip and smiled. He then turned to the first elder and offered his hand and arm in the same manner.
The first elder just looked at Plautius with a grim look.
“I for one will not have it said that I showed poor manners” the second elder said.
Reluctantly the first elder used the greetings of the Gaul’s but it was clear to everyone even Plautius that the greeting was half hearted.
Plautius looked at Merwyn again “Will you act as translator”.
Merwyn raised an eyebrow and sat down.
“You will have to forgive the poor speech of a warrior” Plautius said speaking in one of the Gaul languages and hoping that the two elders spoke some Gaul.
Both elders looked at Plautius with a mix of shock and amazement.
“I do not speak Gaul very often and I am sorry that I will be tripping over my tongue. But I will do my best to speak plain and simply with no umm hidden words. I say what I mean”.
The second elder pointed to a vacated chair.
“Be seated and be at peace” said the second elder as he moved to sit.
The second elder and Plautius sat down and then again reluctantly the first elder sat down.
“Tell me” said the second elder speaking in Gaul said. “What would happen if we went to war with you and we beat you”.
Plautius thought for a moment or two and was about to look at Merwyn and thought better of it as it might be seen as a sign of weakness by the first elder. Speaking to the first elder Plautius said “If you where to beat us in battle then another army would come and then another. You would have to wipe us out and drive us into the seas to stop us”.
“And then what would happen” said the second elder.
“We would come again with more troops and more and terrible weapons. And if that would fail then we would make it so that no one would come here. There would be no trade or very little” Plautius said adding a sad tone to his voice.
The first elder turned slightly and looked at Rabbo.
“But if that happened then none of us would benefit. Both your people and my people would be the worse” Plautius said still looking at the first elder.
“We could get by without you” said the first elder dryly.
“Maybe so. But at what cost to your women and children. If you were to drive us out and wipe us off the shores of this island then as I said we would come back in greater force and we would not be here just to fight but to wipe you out. Your women and children would be slaughter or sold into slavery and you yourselves would be killed or taken back to Rome and used in the games. I for one would prefer if some kind of deal could be reach. I maybe a general but I do not like war. It may bring out the best in some. But it also brings out the worst in other” Plautius paused and looked hard at the first elder before he continued. “There has to be some middle ground that we could agree on”?
Rabbo suddenly jumped down from his chair and moved to the middle of the semicircle.
“I have a thought” Rabbo said. He then turned to face both elders. “You want to be as you are now” Rabbo then turned to Plautius “You want to take this land”?
Both elders nodded as did Plautius.
“There we have a starting point” said Rabbo.
“What are you doing” Merwyn said to Rabbo on the private telepathic mode.
“I have trusted you my whole life and I have learnt so much from you on human nature. Now trust me with this idea” Rabbo answered on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
“I suggest an area setup as a trade center with a fort and a village near by” Rabbo said as he started to explain his idea. “A place that you” Rabbo looked at the two elders. “Can watch the Romans and see their weaknesses and strengths” Rabbo turned and looked at Plautius “and where you can watch and see the weaknesses and strengths of the Dumnonii”.
“The who” said Plautius?
“The Dumnonii” Rabbo said as he continued he used his ears to point at the two elders. “From that settlement you will be able to watch each other and learn from each other. Plautius will be able to keep his emperor happy as his emperor will think that he has a settlement in the area. You the Dumnonii will be able to trade and continue to live the life that you have become accustom too”. Rabbo chuckled softly “it seems if I understand trade that having a point where trade can happen might drive down the price of some items as they become more common” Rabbo paused for a moment and looked at both elders and Plautius. “To continue. Now with the roman fort over looking that large river where Bastet comes to trade it will seem to have a good natural fortified position that commands the area. But that goes both ways as it can easily be cut off. A balance will be needed so that neither you” Rabbo looked at Plautius and then at the elders “will have the advantage. A balance must be maintained so that both sides will have to learn from each other” Rabbo paused again looked at the elders, Merwyn and Plautius.
Before anyone had a chance to say anything Rabbo continued.
“The important thing as I see it as that the Dumnonii want the trade goods that the roman’s have. The roman’s want what the Dumnonii have. If it came to open warfare both sides would lose in the long term as they would be busy fighting each other. To avoid that a neutral point as I have mentioned would help. A trade center with a roman fort and Dumnonii village would make that happening. A place that is neither Dumnonii nor Roman, but both. Such a place would benefit both parties involved. The location would become an important trade hub and those that controlled it would find themselves in a position of where their power would increase and they would have control over those coming into the area. Working together you could become very powerful here and in the empire”.
“Powerful you say” said the first elder looking at Rabbo.
“Yes powerful. I think if you made the traders pay a fee. A umm tax for coming to trade that on its own would be profitable. But that would be just the start. I also see a problem. That is your people’s habit of raiding” Rabbo said looking at the two elders. “But there is away around that, that would benefit both parties” Rabbo paused and looked at the elders and Plautius again. “Let’s say the Dumnonii’s young men raid a roman patrol. The romans would want retribution. If the retribution was taken out on a village with trade items from the Dumnonii and those items taken to the trade point to be traded then it would seem that retribution had happened but in fact the profit from those trade items would be split between you thus increasing your profits with no harm to each other”.
“I like you idea” said the first elder who then looked at Plautius and then the second elder. “If I understand right what you are saying if that mock warfare would be the cover for moving the trade items to the trading point and that would keep our young warriors busy and out of trouble”.
“I see some issues with your whole plan. But it’s a starting point”. The first elder turned and looked at Plautius and for the first time he smiled. “We need to talk more on this”.
“I agree” said Plautius as he offered his hand and arm in the Gaul greeting.
“Let us have some refreshments” Merwyn said as he stood up and walked towards the kitchen door.
“That was very clever Rabbo” Merwyn said telepathically to Rabbo as they both entered the kitchen.
“I had to change a few of my planned ideas as I went along. But all three gave me clues by the looks on their face. The first elder was the key one. Once he saw the umm profit in what I was explaining I knew that they would all agree Rabbo said with a tired tone creeping into his telepathic voice.
Dinner had been set out and was a roast leg of lamb with pasta, fresh garden greens carrots with butter and garlic and fresh baked bread.
Everyone helped themselves to what they wanted while Merwyn and Rabbo sat eating and watching the interaction of the first elder and Plautius.
Bastet and the maiden had returned and they sat talking with Athena and Merryn.
Rabbo looked around the kitchen seeing that everyone other than Merwyn and he were deep in conversion.
Rabbo scanned with his ears and finally settled in on listening to the two elders and Plautius who where talking about the fort and the village that he had suggested. He was surprised that while they had changed a few things they had not changed the faults that Rabbo had spotted in his own plan.
As he listened Plautius was saying “The thing is I have to convince the emperor that I have control over this area”.
“That’s easy to make appear to be happening” the first elder said. “You roman’s are famed for building roads”.
“Roads” Plautius said looking surprised.
“Yes roads” said the first elder. “It seems to me that if you kept your men busy building a road from where the trade center will be to whatever point to the east that you need that will keep them busy and seem to your emperor that you have control plus it will mean that trade could be move much faster up and down the road. We already have the road that you would call a track. That would be a good point to start from”.
“I see what you mean. If we build a full paved road running east west then trade could be moved fast. You realize that there would have to be way stations for people to rest”.
The first elder nodded “That would also keep your men busy and would also seem to show your emperor that you have control of the area”.
“You seem to have changed your mind” said the second elder.
The first elder turned and looked at him and laughed. “Until Rabbo pointed out how much we could profit I was ready to leave and muster an army. But this idea of profit without warfare has its advantages”.
“But what will your kinsmen and followers have to say” said the second elder.
“Rabbo gave me the answer to that” the first elder said laughing. “The raids are the key issue. If we control the raiders then we can set it up so that it seems that we are fighting and resisting, but the truth would be that we are aiding in making it seem like that the roman’s are not in control. And it would keep my warriors and yours if they wish to partake out of trouble”.
“You ever thought about being a roman senator” laughed Plautius “You are sneaky and underhanded”.
Both elders laughed hard.
“I think we need to enlist Bastet’s help” said the second elder as he looked towards Bastet and his daughter. “After all Bastet is the best trader around as she know where to go and the best deals and when the weather is going to be bad. Plus she trades from the area Rabbo said would make a good trading center”.
All three looked over at Bastet who was busy hand feeding the second elders daughter.
“I think that has resolved the issue with your daughter” said the first elder.
“Bastet could you join us” said the second elder.
Bastet handed the maiden the plate she had been taking food off and stood up and walked over.
“What can I do for you” Bastet said with a giddy smile on her face.
“The place you trade from? Rabbo suggested that we use it as a place to set up a trade center and a place with a fort and a village” said the first elder.
“And you want me to help set that in motion” Bastet stated.
“Yes” said Plautius. “Something were maybe ten ships could load and unload”.
“I will have to think about it” Bastet said as she looked back over at the maiden who was walking towards the door leading outside.
Merryn then came walking over towards Plautius “let’s head back to your camp. Tomorrow I can bring you here again and you can continue your planning.”