M3 Margueritte: Bodanagus

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.

“But father,” the young man spoke plainly.  “They came out on the flank too soon.  It should have been a slaughter.”

“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.”

“It was his plan,” Father said.

“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.

“Quite,” she responded.  “Thus, I have a request.”

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.

R5 Greta: Woman of the Ways, part 2 of 3

After a rather late supper, Mother Hulda brought out her tonic and made Greta have some.  Then at last, when they were fed and relaxed, Mother Hulda reached for Greta’s hands.  They were going to see what they could see, if there was anything in the wind that night.  Greta felt the electric warmth of Mother Hulda’s touch, and she let go of her thoughts and feelings as she had been taught.  One could not will the sight or make a vision when there was nothing to be seen.  One could only open oneself to the breath of life and if something came, it came.  If not, they would likely be asleep in half an hour.  Even as she relaxed, the wood cracked in the fire, sparks flew across the room, and Greta found herself somewhere else, altogether.

###

Bodanagus entered the tent and let the flap down slowly.  A man stood at the table studying what appeared to be a map.  The map, lit by two braziers, one to either side, and a candle the man had on the table.  It seemed as if he could not see clearly, but whether that was the map or some way out of a dilemma seemed uncertain.  He had little pieces of wood cut to various shapes and sizes which he moved around the map like pieces on a chessboard, and then he would pause, shake his head, and move the pieces again.

Bodanagus waited patiently.  He examined the tent itself.  The good, sturdy canvass got divided by silk streamers behind the table that no doubt portioned off the man’s sleeping quarter from the rest of the tent. Bodanagus recognized the red dye as common enough, but he thought the purple stripes were a bit ostentatious. Then again, he remembered that what Caesar wanted, Caesar got.

“You’re not Marcellus or you would have spoken already.”  Caesar said, without looking up.  “And you’re not a guard because you did not beg my pardon.”  He looked up.  “You also cannot be an assassin or you would have tried me already.”

“I am a man of peace in search of peace.”  Bodanagus said.  His heart broken for his beloved, now lost to him forever.

“Your armor and weapons call your lie.”  Caesar squinted at him.  “May I ask how you evaded the guards?”

“A magician never reveals his secrets, only they should not be punished.  No man could have done better,” Bodanagus said.

“Punished? Oh, they will be.”  Caesar insisted and he put down the paper he was holding.

Bodanagus shrugged.  “You are Julius Caesar, soon to be dictator of Rome in all but name,” he said, as if to imply that Caesar could do whatever he liked.

Caesar looked serious for a moment.  He looked away before he looked in Bodanagus’ eye.  “I will not be dictator.  All I do is for the people and the glory of Rome.”

Bodanagus shrugged again, and the two men stood in silence for another long moment, eye to eye, to see what might come.  At last, Caesar returned to his map and moved a piece.  “Clearly you know who I am.  Who are you?”

“Bodanagus,” came the response.  “Brother of the King and General of all the Nervii.”  Caesar immediately looked up again, sharply.  He looked surprised, a bit confused, and then squinted again at this intruder.  “I have come seeking peace,” Bodanagus continued.  “There has been enough killing.”

Caesar seemed to accept Bodanagus on face value.  He had looked into the man’s eyes; the only man ever to have fought the great Caesar to a standstill.  “A brilliant move, the way you charged the hill before my defenses were ready.”

“While your men were working and tired, and not ready to defend themselves,” Bodanagus said.

“Yes,” Caesar confessed.  “I will set a better watch from now on.”

“Your camp and fortification procedures overall are too predictable,” Bodanagus said.  “I have followed your campaigns since you crossed the Alps.”

“Indeed?” Caesar did not know whether to be complimented or to kick himself for not foreseeing this possibility.  “I must say, the way you came out against my cavalry was.”  He paused for the right word.  “Artistic.”

“You still have cavalry?” Bodanagus quipped, but he grinned.

“Yes.” Caesar did not take that personally. “But I understand your allies have deserted you.”

“Your spies are misinformed,” Bodanagus responded.  “I sent them home by telling them I intended to make peace.  I could recall them if you want to have at it again.”

Caesar took another long moment before he shook his head.  “No need.  If I had not rallied the tenth and seventh that day, you would have eaten me alive.”

“As it was, a strategic withdraw seemed best, even if it took a couple of hours to affect. My people are not as disciplined as you Romans,” Bodanagus admitted.

Caesar simply nodded.  “So, what will you offer in this search for peace?”

“All of Gaul. Iberia apart from Galacia and Leon. And the island of the British, but only up to the Firth of Fourth, and including Wales, Cornwall and Lyonnes if you can hold them.”

Caesar gave him a dazed look, and then laughed as if given a good joke.  Clearly, he did not believe a word of it.  “And what will you require in return?”

“The assurance and protection of Rome, to make all of the other tribes and Rome herself respect the territory of the Nervii.  And when Amorica is cleared of Veneti, to let my people, all who are not happy with the King, my brother, emigrate into that land.”

“So, what? I should have Nervii to the East and to the West?  I think not.” Caesar said a bit too quickly.  “The Veneti?” he questioned.

Bodanagus did not explain.  Instead, he turned the point.  “Divide and conquer.  I thought that was Caesar’s way.”

Caesar paused and put his hand to his chin.  “Divide and conquer,” he said, softly.  “This is a sound strategy.”  He looked up. “May I quote you?”  Bodanagus shrugged again.  Then Caesar laughed once more.  “But I already own Gaul and Pompey took Iberia some time ago.  You speak like a fool, though I had not thought that of you.  The world is not yours to offer.”

“But it is,” Bodanagus said, in a simple, straight-forward voice.  He did not wait to be invited, but took a seat on a nearby stool.  “Rome holds these places at present because the gods have been willing to wait and see. Rome can be driven by defeat and disaster as quickly as she can rule by victory.  You can be ruined, or I can grant you the geis of Alexander.”

“Geis?  Alexander?”  Caesar appeared intrigued enough to hear the man out.

“Alexander the Great, my erstwhile cousin,” Bodanagus said.

“Yes, I know Alexander,” Caesar said quickly and came out from behind the table to take a seat opposite his intruder.  “What is this geis?”

Bodanagus waited until Caesar got comfortable, and then he explained.  “They called it ambition, but in fact, Alexander, and his father Philip, were more sensible than the Spartans before them.  Alexander knew the Greeks in Asia would never be free unless he brought down the Persians and their empire.  When he set his sights on this goal, however, he caused a stir in the heavens.  The gods of Olympus, of Asia and Egypt gathered together and debated.  At last they agreed.  They would neither help nor hinder the Greeks nor Persians.  If the Persians could drive back the invasion and overrun Greece, so be it.  If Alexander could succeed against the Persians, he could keep whatever he could hold. This is the geis of Alexander.”

“And so.” Caesar had to think hard about it. “What you are claiming is you have the authority to grant this geis to me?”

“To Rome,” Bodanagus said.  “But there are other players in this part of the world.  Zeus, er, Jupiter has granted me the right through Salacia to speak for the Latins.  I can also speak for Egypt and North Africa through Zeu-Amon.  If the Gauls, united, can drive you out and overrun Rome as they did once long ago.”  Bodanagus shrugged.  “But if you and Rome can take and hold the lands of the Celts, then the Gods of the Celts will not interfere.  But let me add, though my mother herself was German, I dare not speak for Odin.”

“Odin?” Caesar was thinking before he threw his hands to the air.  “But what you say is mad.  No mortal has such authority.”  He might have laughed again, but Bodanagus still looked so serious.

“This is true, but then I have lived some very few lives in the past which were not exactly mortal lives.”

Bodanagus went away and a woman sat in his place.  She appeared tall and dark and very beautiful, and she continued speaking as if she was the same person, which she was.

“You see, I am the Danna, the Don, Mother of all the gods of the Celts, or I once was many lifetimes before Bodanagus.  My children will listen to my voice.”

Caesar leaped back and knocked over his chair.  He found himself on his knees.  It is one thing to give deference to the gods as if they are mere stone statues, objects to worship, but quite another to come face to face with one of them. Caesar trembled ever so slightly, overcome by feelings of dread and awe.  He could not help it.  He hid his face as events unfolded, but his ears never stopped working.

“My Lord.” Danna acknowledged Odin as he appeared. “Grandmother.”  She acknowledged Frigg through her marriage relationship and curtsied ever so slightly to the King and Queen of the North.  “And the crooked one.”  She mentioned Loki, though the feeling of wanting to punch the fellow in the nose was hard to resist.

“Lady Danna,” Frigg said.  “How good to see you again.”

“Let me see my grandson,” Odin insisted.  Like a true grouchy old man, he had no time for the nice things, and instead got straight to the point.

“Of course.” Danna curtsied again and she traded places through time with the young man, another life she once lived, a more recent lifetime, though one still long before Bodanagus.

Nameless squinted for a moment and then growled at Loki.  It was the usual greeting and Loki smirked his crooked smirk in return.

“Rome is not welcome among the Germans.”  Odin spoke bluntly.  “And not among the peoples of the North Sea.  I have plans for them.”

“The time for dissolution is near,” Frigg interrupted.  “Your father Tyr of the one hand is delayed by some geis of his own making, but your mother, the beautiful Frya says she is ready for the journey to the other side.  Would that we all were.”  She cast a sideways glance at Loki before she continued.  “We are counting on you.”

Odin interrupted. “You are to keep Rome out of German lands if the dissolution comes soon.”

“But Grandfather,” Nameless objected.  “You know how it works.  My lifetime came and went long ago.  This world belongs to Bodanagus.  If you wish to work in his lifetime, you must work through him.”

Frigg smiled and nodded.  She knew full well how it worked.  Odin looked frustrated.  Loki rarely betrayed his feelings, and almost never his honest feelings.

“Bodanagus, then,” Odin commanded.

“At least his mother was rightly German,” Loki pointed out and that mollified Odin a little.

Nameless nodded without another word, and went away to leave Bodanagus once again in his own time and place.  There was little more discussion, and certain things passed between the Gods and the General of the Nervii, and then it was over.  The Gods were gone, and Bodanagus helped a prostrate Caesar to his feet.