The young man set his helmet on the ground and brushed back his dark hair. He looked over the battlefield and tried to figure out what they could do better next time. The image of a woman flashed through his mind. He felt instantly curious. It wasn’t Isoulde. This woman looked remarkably like himself, with the same dark hair, green eyes and round face. She might have been his identical twin, except she was a woman, of course.
“Margueritte.” He breathed the name before he got interrupted. Then he moaned as he felt a great wrenching on his heart.
“Son! What’s wrong?” His father came up the rise. “You have just won a great victory. You should be celebrating.” Father looked all smiles.
The image of Margueritte was gone from his mind as quickly as it had come. “It would have been a greater victory if your chiefs followed orders,” he said, as he came out of the pain.
“Son. You told the chiefs to hide in the woods. I did not even know if they would do it. Nervii do not hide from battle. They meet it, head on.” Father punched his fist into his gloved hand. “But I must say, when they came pouring out on the side of the enemy, I never saw men quit and run so fast.” He laughed his great big laugh, but the young man did not laugh with him.
“Spoken like a true Nervii.” The old man said and laid a hand gently on his son’s shoulder. “But Bodanagus. You are just sixteen. You have plenty of time for slaughter but listen. You are never too young to learn this. Peace is always better than war.”
“Yes, father,” Bodanagus responded. “Only in this case, too many escaped. They may reform and try again.”
The old man patted his son’s shoulder and laughed again. “We will just leap that chasm when we come to it, eh? Isn’t that what you say?”
Bodanagus nodded, but both heads turned as a rider approached. The rider leapt from the horse, let the horse run free, and came running up to the others.
“What news, Verginex?” The old man asked.
“Father.” Verginex spoke. “They had archers cover their retreat. We couldn’t get close enough to find the Roman. The prisoners say he led them into a trap. I would guess they won’t let the Roman live much longer.”
“I would guess the same,” the father said. “Never underestimate the Belgae and their ability to hold a grudge and blame others for their misfortune.”
“Never underestimate the Romans,” Bodanagus said, half to himself.
“Eh?” Father spoke up.
“You bloodied your sword.” Verginex interrupted and pointed.
Bodanagus looked down at his sword and spoke matter of fact. “I had to kill him.”
“Father!” Verginex began to whine. “You made me stay with the horses, but Bodanagus got to bloody his sword.”
“I know.” Verginex raised the whine up a notch. “He gets the victory, besides.”
Father put his arm around his other son and began to lead him back down the hill, only he could not stop smiling. “Son?”
“Tell Isoulde I’ll be along in a while,” Bodanagus said.
“And he gets the girl, too!” Verginex complained. “What do I get?”
“Son. You get to be king one day. Don’t begrudge your younger brother his talents. Instead, as future king, you need to learn to take advantage of them.”
Verginex looked back once. Bodanagus saluted. Being king was something Bodanagus wanted no part of, and fortunately, Verginex knew that.
Bodanagus stood alone again, but he could not draw up the image of that woman, Margueritte. Even trying to imagine what a female version of himself might look like did not help. He felt ready to give it up when he got startled by a different woman, one with a bit more substance. She stood a few feet away and stared at him, though how she managed to get so close to him without him noticing was beyond him.
“Not much of a battle,” the woman said. She brushed back her long blond locks and gave her armor full view of the sun. She looked very young, but at the same time there seemed something ancient about her. “I can smell Zeus’ pawn from here.”
“The Roman.” Bodanagus understood that much. He took a wild stab at the truth. “Don’t you belong on the other side of the Rhine?”
“Very good, Kairos,” she said. “But I knew it was you when I couldn’t read your thoughts, young as you are.”
“You will have to help me with the rest, like a name,” Bodanagus said.
“Not important,” she said. “Let us just say Aesgard is concerned about which way Rome may turn now that Carthage is dust and Syria is being beaten down.”
“My concern, also. And the concern of Tara, I suspect,” he said.
Bodanagus felt startled. A goddess making a request? Such a thing was unheard of. “I am listening,” he said at last.
“That you keep Rome out of Germany,” she said.
“But I am not German. I am Nervii. I am Gallic.”
“Your mother is Frankish. This is enough,”
Bodanagus paused to consider. He knew some day he would have his hands full of Romans. “I will do what I can.”
“Very well said, Kairos. The gods never make promises.” She smiled at her own, private thoughts. “Perhaps this will help when the time comes.” She gave him something. Bodanagus felt the electricity of it course through his body.
“Thank you,” he said, just to be polite, though he had no idea what the gift might be. She, however, had already vanished.
Too many women, he thought, but not the right one. He decided to find Isoulde. She was all he really needed or wanted.