This blog is where I host my story Primus Pilus.

What is Primus Pilus? It's story of low fantasy written as web serial micro-fiction set in an alternate world version of the Roman empire.

Low fantasy - meaning magic without dragons, elfs, or fireballs.

Web serial means that on a regular basis (Mondays and Fridays) a new chapter comes on here. Which is, y'know, the web. Yeah.

And here's the interesting semi-unique (I've only seen it one other place. Which would make it ... bi-nique?) part. Micro-fiction. I got the idea from Alexandra Erin's story "Tribe". Each of my micro-chapters is between 320 and 350 words. The chapters will be grouped into "Arcs". Each arc will, in it's own way, be a seperate story in the same continuity, and the arcs will come together to form a larger story.

Alternate world means two things. One it means that there's magic. Two, it means that the world fits with my spotty historical memory.

So, if you're new to the story, check out on the left the Story Archive, and click on 1 - 1.

Otherwise, the most recent microchapter is right below here.

I hope you leave me some comments. Critiscism, praise, or whatever. Just let me know that people are actually reading this!


Monday, March 30, 2009

1 - 7

Clemens sat on the ship's deck – looking, but not really seeing. He had much to think about. They'd been aboard two weeks – not that long, really. On the fourth day a fight had broken out among the men – a gambling debt gone wrong, no doubt. After he and some of the other older men had broken up the fight, Clemens went to find the ranking officer. Surprisingly, there were no officers on the ship. In fact, after asking about, he found himself to be the longest-serving legionary on board. Something struck him as wrong about that, but he had no way of knowing what. Well, thought he, I suppose I'm in charge.

Clemens had spent most of the time since watching the men. He was painfully aware that he was not an officer, and so tried to do as little ordering about as possible. He spent most of his time observing the men, and meeting with the ship's captain to maintain positive relations between the sailors and the legionaries.

Of all the men, Clemens found Kemsa the most interesting to observe. The young Aegyptian simply did not see the invisible lines which divided men from one another. See how he moves about! While most of us can barely walk the ship's swaying, he moves like a spider amongst the rigging. Now he comes down – head first! And now he's joking with the Bosun! Ah, here he comes!

“Ave, Clemens!”

“Ave, Kemsa!”

“You seem lost in thought.” Observed Kemsa.

“Aye, that I was. Thinking is a good habit for a soldier. Keeps you alive.” Clemens nodded with mock gravity as he said this.

Kemsa laughed as he sat down next to his mentor. “But I jest not. You seemed deadly serious as I approached. What troubles you?”

“Nothing is troubling me. Not yet. In fact, I was merely enjoying your lightheartedness.” With this, the older man punched the younger on the shoulder, knocking him down. They both laughed, and for a moment, Clemens' persistent feelings of uneasiness left him.

Friday, March 27, 2009

1 -6

Kemsa half-listened to the Centurion's speech. It was much what he had expected to hear – lots of encouragement about their bravery, and their upcoming victories, very little of import. Hurry up! thought Kemsa, I want to go! The boats are right there! Can't we leave yet?

At this moment Kemsa found his internal monologue interrupted by a bout of laughter – the Centurion had just reminded everyone that the sailors existed outside the normal legionary chain of command, and warned them all to be on the lookout. Kemsa didn't really understand what he was implying, but laughed along with he rest of the men.

And then they were off onto the boats, all the men cheering. Kemsa followed his two older friends onto the smaller of the two ships. Kemsa's eyes whipped from side to side, he was trying to take everything in at once: the mess of ropes and canvas which soared above his head; the piles of crates which the sailors had loaded onto the ship ahead of time; the sailors themselves, all working together in perfect harmony to make the ship itself work. If Kemsa had ever seen battle himself, he would have been struck by the similarity of how the ship's crew functions as an entity larger than just the sum of it's parts, and how a legion in battle does much the same thing.

Kemsa felt himself get swept up in a fit of naive optimism. This journey is going to be fantastic. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Monday, March 23, 2009

1 - 5

Buteus did not receive his friend's dire warning well. “What do you mean, Clemens?! Are we sailing to our deaths?”

“I ... don't know. I fear something ... magical is afoot.” Answered the augur. “Something ... dire.”

“Magic?” Asked Buteus, incredulous, “But friend, magic doesn't exist! Magic is stories told to children that they might obey their parents,” he continued, laughing nervously.

“You believe that, friend? You just saw me predict the future, and you do not believe in Magic? Ha!” Clemens then looked around to make sure that no-one could hear them, and he saw that Kemsa was approaching. “Let us speak more of this later,” louder he added, “Our young Aegyptian friend approaches!”

Kemsa waved to the two older men – his mentors, of sorts, in the legion. Uh oh, thought Kemsa, they look serious. The last time they looked like that, the eighth contubernium dragged me into the desert in my sleep as some sort of hazing ritual. Once he was closer, he called “Ave, Buteus! Ave, Clemens!” The two older men greeted him in kind.

“So, Kemsa,” said Buteus, “you ready? You've never been on ship before, have you?”

“Not really. I've sailed up and down the Nile a few times, but I've never been on board anything bigger than a river boat.”

“Well, you can be assured that this will be a completely incomparable experience. If you are needed at the oars, you may go days without seeing the sky. And that is the least of it!” Responded Buteus.

Clemens continued, “I remember my first time aboard ship. I was younger even than you are, Kemsa. We were in a storm for two, maybe three days. The decks of the ship were swaying so strongly that I thought the world was ending. That was when I truly came to understand worship. And it worked – the world did not end! But quiet – the Centurion speaks.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

1 - 4

While Kemsa was losing his remaining money to the more experienced gamblers, Buteus and Clemens sat silently on the dock. Presently, Buteus turned to his long time comrade and said,

“We've been in Alexandria how long, now? Five years?” When his friend failed to respond, Buteus turned to face Clemens. The latter's entire manner was unnatural. His body had gone rigid, his eyes were fixed on the sky. When Buteus followed his gaze, he saw flocks of birds. Clemens' head was whipping around, allowing his eyes to track the movement of the birds.

Suddenly, Clemens' body relaxed, his eyes fluttered, and his manner returned to normal. “I was in a trance, wasn't I?” He asked.

“You were at that,” answered Buteus, “doesn't that worry you? Any time you're looking at birds, you might just ... Poof! Into a trance.”

“That is the cost of being an Augur.” Answered Clemens, cryptically.

“At least you weren't trained you as a haruspex,” laughed the other, “you'd pop out of your head every time you cut someone open in battle!”

“Very funny, Buteus. You know as well as I do that haruspection is more complex than that. Augury, on the other hand, is very intuitive.”

“Well, what did you see?”

“What do you see?”

“I see a bunch of ordinary gulls, flying about. What else?”

Clemens pondered for a moment and said, “Your eyes fail you, friend. Those are not ordinary gulls. Their tail feathers are tipped with brown –”

How can he see that? They're so far away, thought Buteus.

Clemens continued, “Local gulls have gray tail feathers. These birds are not native. Also, they're flying in a migration pattern, towards us. They've come from across the sea. The gulls are flying away from something. Something dangerous. They're trying to survive.”

“What does it mean?” Asked Buteus, a tremor of fear that he did not understand creeping into his voice.

“It means our ships are going the wrong way.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

1 - 3

Crassus took Kemsa's denarii and handed him two small disks. They had Vs inscribed on one side, and the words “remittam libenter” inscribed on the other.

“We will be exchanging these tokens. Which any legionary will exchange for denarii. You see that we are not gambling?” asked Crassus.

Kemsa was aghast to think that he would be involved in such a flaunting of the law. And yet – perhaps it was acceptable.

As Kemsa was lost in thought, he was lead to a large crate around which about a dozen or so legionaries were gathered. He knew four of them –members of his contubernium: Juncus, Galus, Polinus, and Tiberus. The remaining men seemed familiar, but Kemsa did not know them personally – assuredly other members of the cohort.

Kemsa watched the game for a few minutes, trying to understand it. Each man shook three dice in a cup. Then, seeing only the dice in his own cup, each man would bet how many of a given number would be showing amongst all the dice on the makeshift table. Everyone would roll, and then one man would say “two threes”, another would say “two fives”, another would say “five threes”, and everyone would be surprised.

Once Kemsa thought he had a firm grip on how the game worked, he grabbed one of the extra cups of dice, and threw one of his V chips onto the pile. He shook his dice, and looked at them. He saw a I and two IVs. When the betting came around to him, he made a big bet – thirteen fours.

However, he hadn't understood the game as well as he had thought. He lost his first five-denarii chit, and then his second. Then, as he realized he could no longer play, he spent his remaining denarii on yet another token from Crassus, which he lost with just as much proficiency as he had lost the first two.

“Uh-oh,” Thought Kemsa, “now I'm out of money”.

Friday, March 13, 2009

1 - 2

“Hello, Crassus.” said Kemsa, thinking, Crassus. What a fitting name for this man. Aloud, he said, “Need I remind you that my name is not a woman's?”

“Why, Kemsa!” exclaimed Crassus is mock surprise, “I hadn't realized that was you. How foolish of me.” He said, patting the young Egyptian on the back. “Well, what kept you? We were all supposed do be at the harbour by dawn. I do believe that was a full hour ago.”

Kemsa saw that the (slightly) older man was goading him. He took a deep breath before answering. “You wound me unjustly. The sun crested the horizon less than twenty minutes ago. We are not to be aboard ship for another two hours. As such, I didn't see fit to rush my offerings to my goddess”.

“Ah yes, your goddess. What's her name again? Isa?” the other asked, uninterested.

“Close. Isis. Be careful, Crassus, or you may actually remember.”

“Well, enough talk of trivial matters,” said Crassus, “as you so astutely noted, we have time to pass before we embark. Let us join out comrades in their games while we wait.”

“What ... sort of games?” Asked Kemsa, not without trepidation.

“Why, games of chance and bets, of course.”

“But,” said Kemsa, betraying his youthful naivety, “is gambling not illegal outside of Saturnalia?”

“Ah, but we will not be gambling, my young friend,” said Crassus, “Tell me, how many denarii have you?”

“I have but a meagre fifteen denarii.” Answered the young Egyptian, not at all liking where this train of questioning seemed to lead.

“A mere fifteen! You must have spent the rest on whores, knowing how long we would be aboard ship.” Kemsa had done no such thing, but before he could protest, Crassus continued, “Well, give me ten”. When he hesitated, Crassus insisted, and the young man handed him the coins.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

1 - 1

It was barely dawn when the black cat ran out of Alexandria's via principa, just before a legionary's sandalled foot would have crushed her tail. Entering a back alley, the cat shook herself indignantly before running through the back alleys. Before ten minutes passed, she made her way up onto the rooftops of the vast expanse of private homes. She was hungry, but she knew where to find food. So she set off for the temple of Baast. Within few more minutes, that black cat was but one of many felines swarming through the front doors of the temple.

It was this mass which Kemsa tripped over as he tried to make his way to the harbour.

“I apologize, O Lady Baast” He said, as he paused, seeking to demonstrate a satisfactory level of contriteness to the subjects of the goddess he had just so improprietarily displaced in his rush – his rush!

“I'm late! I'm late!” he fairly cried to himself, as he hurriedly continued on his way to the harbour. If he was the last of his contubernium (his eight-man legionary unit) to arrive, he would never hear the end of it from the older men.

When he made it to the docks, Kemsa looked around to see if he was, in fact, the last to arrive. First he spotted the two oldest men – Buteus and Clemens – were sitting on one of the docks proper, their heads bent together, clearly discussing something of great import.

They must be making plans for the upcoming journey, thought Kemsa. But of course, there's nothing strange about that. We – and the rest of the cohort – are shipping out to Britannia this morn. To think that the ninth legion up and deserted into the wilds of Caledonia! Oh, Isis fend, I hope that boats are not as bad as I've been told.

As Kemsa scanned the crowd at the harbour, he was surprised that he did not see –

“Hello there, little girl. Are you lost?” A voice asked sardonically from behind him.

– Crassus.