The Depths of Neptune - Cover

The Depths of Neptune

Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 2

Emain Macha, Ériu

Llassar perched on the horse borrowed from the king’s stables, observing the king’s son maneuvering in tight circles around a course set in the fields just outside of town. When he’d finally won Conchobar’s trust and summoned the Roman, now Britannian, legions to confront the Carthaginians and their local allies, they had introduced a myriad of astonishing inventions to the Ulaid. Though more organized than his people had been prior to Talogren’s consolidation of the tribes, their arts had remained fairly primitive.

Iron or simple crucible steel weapons sufficed but dulled quickly and broke frequently, and basic bows were their preferred choice. Llassar had always admired the Romans for their superior steel and precision-engineered weapons, such as their siege weapons or arcuballista.

However, a year ago, everything changed when the Romans began using steel stronger than anything he’d ever seen or heard of, along with a new arcuballista boasting range and power to penetrate a man’s shield and the man behind it. They’d also introduced a new kind of saddle that allowed their horsemen to turn with such agility that they could ride in tight circles around their foes. It was astounding that a mere loop of leather sewn into a saddle could revolutionize their mounted forces.

The Ulaid hadn’t been able to replicate most of the Romans’ inventions, or rather the Consul’s, as everyone knew he was the source of these innovations, even if their new allies shared the secrets. Yet, they had swiftly adopted the use of stirrups, as Ky had called them.

While the highlands where Llassar hailed from had open land, its mountainous terrain with sloping fields didn’t lend itself to extended gallops. Horses were primarily used to pull carts or for transportation. In contrast, Ériu boasted expansive open spaces, and horse racing was already a beloved pastime before the introduction of stirrups. With their arrival, sharp turns and double backs were incorporated into the staked-out courses, enhancing the experience for riders and spectators alike. Llassar wasn’t particularly fond of either, but as the prince’s guardian, he was duty-bound to watch over him as he reveled in the activity daily, weather permitting.

“He doesn’t let up, does he?” Velius inquired, joining Llassar.

“Not when it’s something like this, or women. When it’s listening to the petitions of his subjects or allocating resources, he can barely keep his eyes open.”

“He’s a child. When I was his age, I had just joined the legion, barely knowing which end of my sword to wield. I can’t imagine how poorly I would have behaved if I was suddenly handed the reins of government.”

“Much governing happening out there?” Velius teased, grinning.

Llassar merely shrugged in response.

“A messenger just arrived from Devnum,” Velius disclosed when it became apparent Llassar wouldn’t elaborate further. “Now that we’re down to the last holdouts, the Consul has decided we need to start bringing our forces back home to prepare for the assault on the continent.”

“I believe that’s a mistake. The local forces won’t manage to eliminate the holdouts, particularly Fergus and Queen Medb, on their own. She was the only one astute enough to reserve some of her forces. The Ulaid never managed to reassemble their army after those devastating defeats, and now that they’re part of the Empire, most of the remaining military citizens will likely be dispatched to Rome for legionary training. The king’s guard is insufficient to eradicate Queen Medb. Within a year, the rebels will start reclaiming territory, luring some of the converts back to their old ways. We’ll have to redirect more manpower here, but by then we’ll have already begun our invasion of the continent. That doesn’t even touch upon the brigand issue. We both know how many men have been pulled from the legions to patrol and pursue outlaws.”

“I concur, as does the Consul. The first group of Praetorian trainers will arrive with the king’s return, which should help get the brigand situation under control. He’s also leaving Auspex and his legions with you until the queen is subdued and all hostile forces have been eliminated. After that, Auspex will rejoin the other legions, and maintaining countryside control will fall to the appointed Ulaid Praetorian commander.”

“He’s leaving us Auspex?”

“Yes. The Consul read both of our reports. He wouldn’t abandon you.”

“Even virtuous men are sometimes compelled to make unfavorable decisions due to the demands of war.”

“True, but we have some leeway. I haven’t been privy to his planning sessions, but I suspect he aims to address the holdouts between Ériu and Britannia. If it were up to me, that would be an ideal test of our forces before attempting less predictable situations. The island is small enough; he probably doesn’t need all the legions for that. We also need time to train new recruits from here and previously occupied Britannian territories. That will take time.”


“Direct combat command remains with Auspex. You’re an exceptional warrior, but his experience in commanding legions in the field surpasses yours. You’ll retain overall command for strategic decisions.”

“A wise precaution.”

“Now that the treaty is signed, merchants who recognize the potential here, much like they did when your homeland opened for trade, will undoubtedly arrive. Though many of the more dubious individuals were weeded out then, that well never runs completely dry. I left his message for you to read yourself, but it’s up to you to prevent them from causing disturbances until the alliance solidifies. I don’t envy your task. I’d take a Carthaginian horde any day over merchants and politicians.”

Llassar finally tore his gaze from the prince, fixing it on the legate with a deadpan expression. Both men knew that Llassar was a warrior at heart, never desiring to dabble in politics or diplomacy. Regrettably, his connections with the Ulaid and the trust Talogren and other Caledonians placed in him had made him the sole choice to initiate communications between the Ulaid and the Britannians. Once entangled in the political sphere, it proved challenging for Llassar to return to his preferred role as a straightforward military commander.

“Fine. I’ll stop teasing you,” Velius conceded, extending his hand. “It was an honor working alongside you. I look forward to your return to Britannia.”

“As do I,” Llassar agreed, grasping the other man’s forearm.

They held their grip for several heartbeats before Velius released his hold and steered his horse back towards the legion camps on the far side of Emain Macha. Llassar watched him ride away for a moment before refocusing on the galloping prince, who had been entrusted to his ‘guidance’ during his father’s absence.

Sitting stone still, the older warrior’s stoic expression hid the tempest of thoughts brewing within him as he began to work through his options, and how he would be able to convince the prince that his choice was the right one.

Devnum, Nova Rome

Bomilcar, the former Carthaginian general, stood before the assembly, his voice clear and unwavering: “ ... I pledge my fealty and allegiance to the Britannic Empire and Titus Flavius Germanicus, Emperor of Britannia Magna and its people. I pledge I shall faithfully execute all that the Emperor commands, that I shall never desert his service, and that I shall not seek to avoid death in doing my duty to the Britannic Empire. I so swear my sword and my life.”

“Rise,” Emperor Germanicus commanded, having stood over the kneeling general, gazing down at his bowed, balding head.

Ky recognized the necessity of Bomilcar’s military expertise and understanding of Carthaginian tactics, and ultimately, the Emperor agreed. They settled on a modest ceremony, keeping Bomilcar as far from public view as feasible. A select few loyal senators, the legates still on Britannia, Ky, Lucilla, and the Emperor bore witness. News would inevitably spread, but its dissemination would be slower and less jarring than a grand spectacle or public announcement.

Ky observed from his position, slightly behind and to the right of the Emperor, contemplating the ceremony. In this reality, with history diverging from what Ky knew, Rome had never been in a position to accept allegiance as it teetered on the brink of collapse when it became an empire. The Republic had a similar oath for legates, but it seemed inadequate for the present situation.

Ky and Sophus had considered post-Roman oaths from their history, though they were mostly centered around religion due to the church’s growing influence. Christianity hadn’t taken hold in this reality, or if it had, it remained an underground sect. The Carthaginians, brutal rulers, sought to eradicate any worship not involving their Emperor. Rome’s relocation to Britannia drastically altered the region’s history, affecting the makeup and viability of any emerging religious groups.

The prevailing worship of the Greek-inspired pantheon rendered many oaths unsuitable. Ultimately, Lucilla had crafted her own oath without consulting Ky or Sophus, presenting it to her father. Drawing inspiration from the oaths of legates and senators, she created something fitting for the occasion.

The forum, bereft of the grandiosity of a throne room, served as the setting for the ceremony, reflecting the Roman tendency to view the Emperor as a first among equals rather than an autocratic leader. It was nearly empty, a point of contention after Ky convinced Emperor Germanicus of Bomilcar’s genuine conversion and desire to join the Empire.

Though Emperor Germanicus and Lucilla often regarded Ky as a well-meaning but politically naïve individual, they eventually agreed on Bomilcar’s value. However, they worried about convincing the Empire’s leadership and the masses to accept the former enemy general, who had once led a massive army with the intent to annihilate all in its path.

Bomilcar’s unease was palpable throughout the ceremony. Ky could sense the weight of the legates’ and senators’ distrustful gazes, their scowls unmistakable as they observed the proceedings.

“In the name of the people of Rome, Caledonia, and Ulaid, I, Titus Flavius Germanicus, accept your service, from now until your death.”

Bomilcar bowed, and that was it. Instead of the customary cheers and congratulations one might expect, the senators turned and left the forum in stony silence. The legates, however, each shook Bomilcar’s hand, their military backgrounds perhaps better equipping them to accept distasteful orders. Though they extended no words of encouragement or support, their actions spoke volumes compared to the senators, who held themselves in such high esteem.

Ky exchanged a nod with Lucilla, silently communicating his desire for a moment alone with Bomilcar. He appreciated their growing nonverbal understanding and chose to rely on it whenever possible. As Lucilla whispered to her father, Ky gestured for the remaining legates to leave the forum. Soon, Bomilcar and Ky stood alone in the square-shaped room.

To read this story you need a Registration + Premier Membership
If you have an account, then please Log In or Register (Why register?)