The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 34

Although he believed Talogren’s word that he would get warriors willing to go south and help defend against the Carthaginian invasion, Ky wasn’t sure he’d actually been successful until the first of those men started to arrive at the border. By the end of the morning of the third day, when they needed to march, he had even managed to beat his own estimate with the final total coming to just over five-thousand one-hundred. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the fighting men. Many of them had brought their wives and children along, as well as quite a number of camp followers looking to sell wares, or themselves, to the horde of men.

Ky knew that this was a phenomenon with all armies of the time, including the Romans, but since they were pulling people out of their villages and having them move into an area that would have been hostile to them that they could not scavenge off, Ky had thought they might not be an issue this time. Vibius had recommended that the women and children, at least, get turned away and sent back to their villages, but one ride among them was enough for Ky to decide to let them come. The men were all healthy, but many of the women and children were malnourished and their clothing tattered to the point of being rags. If they were forced to go back without their breadwinners, many of these people wouldn’t live through the winter.

Ky knew this would make his job harder when he arrived at Devnum, but he couldn’t say no. In the end, almost ten thousand people would be headed south. Ky took a century from Vibius to work as police and assist in providing for the horde. Every day he sent them out to buy food and supplies to bring back, although much of that with tokens that the farmers could redeem instead of hard currency.

Ky reassured them that someone would return with money to pay these people, so they didn’t have to travel to the capital to get reimbursed, but they had heard that before. This far from the capital, Ky’s reputation didn’t mean as much, and the people were warier. Ky also sent two of his men ahead to have food and supplies collected in Devnum and a small supply train driven up to meet them halfway, to help alleviate the strain on the countryside.

Even on the cut ration, the Picts were ecstatic. Many of the women and children were eating better than they had in their lives, which in turn made the men happy and more compliant.

The trip wasn’t without incident, however. Despite Talogren’s warnings and then Llassar’s repetition of those warnings that violation of Roman law would come with Roman penalties, including death for serious crimes. Despite those warnings and the patrolling Roman soldiers, a handful of warriors had to be punished before they reached Devnum, including two for rape and one for murdering a farmer when he tried to protect his daughter.

Ky stopped the march for two hours while he held court with both Romans and Picts passing judgment. The three men were found guilty and lined up in front of the watching Picts. Ky made sure everyone involved was one of their people, from the men guarding the prisoners to the executioner standing behind them.

“I promised Talogren and your chieftains that I would treat you fairly and that you would be equals with the Romans, not their subjects or slaves,” Ky said to the assembled mass, standing in front of the kneeling prisoners.

While Ky could make his voice project far, with this many people less than a third would actually hear what he was saying. The rest would have to hear it repeated by their countrymen who were standing close enough to hear.

“I meant that in every way. You will have the same opportunities as any Roman. The same privileges as any Roman. And ... you will have the same obligations as any Roman. By your laws and by the Romans’, what these men have done is wrong and they must pay the price for their actions. What happens now, I don’t do out of hate for your people ... or malice ... or anger. I do it because it must be done.”

With that Ky stepped back and pulled his sword. Ky dispatched each man as quickly as he could, his sword decapitating them one by one. When it was done he ordered that they not be defiled or hung up as an example and instead had their bodies disposed of in the traditional Pict manner, by burning on a pyre. Most of the Picts returned to the camp they had set up the night before to prepare for that day’s march, but some stayed to watch the bodies burn.

Llassar, who Ky found to be reasonable if gruff, agreed to keep an eye on the rest and tell him if the execution caused any unrest. He seemed unphased by it and from what Ky had been able to pick up, the Picts generally had much harsher ways of dealing with criminals.


Word spread among the Roman farmers and stead holders as they marched about the crimes and how quickly the perpetrators had been executed. While many had fled at the throng of barbarians, when the expected pillaging and death did not appear, most returned. Some even joined the Pict camp followers to try and profit from men and families that needed supplies and entertainment. While they didn’t have Roman money, enough barter was found that, by the time they reached Devnum, more than a hundred Romans were following the Picts.

Ky was met a few miles from town by a reception party made up of both allies and detractors. While he was thankful to see Aelius and Velius, he could have done without the likes of Silo and Pius, both of whom looked at the Picts with a mixture of hatred and disgust.

“I’m glad to see you,” Ky said to Velius when the men rode up to him.

“I wish I could say the same,” Velius said. “Your messengers told us what you were bringing, but I didn’t truly believe it until this moment. You have brought the entire north with you.”

“Hardly the entire north. I’d planned on bringing just warriors that their Chief could spare, but they wouldn’t come without their families. This is Llassar. He was sent to lead them and is their commander, more or less. Have them set up a camp between the seventh and ninth legions and get supplies for them.”

“Consul, I’ll do whatever you order,” Aelius said. “But that is a lot of people and a lot of mouths to feed. This is almost as many as our two legions combined and it’s winter. How will we find the supplies for them?”

“I’m headed to talk to the Emperor now. We can pull from the imperial stores for now, and we’ll figure something out after that.”

“We do not want to live off of others,” Llassar said. “The warriors are here to train and fight, but our people can work.”

“Put out the word,” Ky said to Velius. “Since so many slaves have left for the legions, I’m sure there are people looking for workers. Send someone to talk to Hortensius and have him start working on the problem.”

“You know there will be a backlash to this,” Velius said, eyeing Silo and his entourage.

“I’ll deal with that when I have to. We need men, and we have a full legion worth of additional warriors ready to fight. Now go, get the camps ready. Llassar, Velius will show your people to a place where they can set up camp and get them supplies.”

Llassar, his one sentence for the day said, just nodded and rode to follow Velius.

“Keep an eye on them,” Ky said to Carus, indicating Silo and his party. “I want to know what they do when they leave here.”

Carus nodded and rode to talk to his men. Ky knew he’d been pushing them all too hard over the last several days, but he had to get the Picts settled and the status clear before everything fell apart. Had he thought this through more, he might have sent word ahead to take care of a lot of these details before he arrived, to make the process go more smoothly, but this wasn’t a thought-out plan. He thought he’d made the right call, especially when he considered he added almost twenty percent to his effective fighting force, since he knew he couldn’t count on either the first or second legions to support his strategy. They’d needed men, and this plan so far had given them just that.

Ky rode into the city, passing crowds that had started to gather to gawk at the foreigners as they marched around the city and towards their temporary home. Considering all of the commotion, Ky wasn’t surprised to see the Emperor on the steps of the palace, waiting for them.

Lucilla saw him too, hopping off her horse and running up the steps to embrace her father. Ky followed slowly behind them, giving the father and daughter time. Although he hadn’t spoken to the Emperor before his rushed departure, he had sent word back about the abduction and again after they’d brought Lucilla back safely.

“When I named you Consul, I never imagined you would keep things so interesting,” the Emperor said, releasing his daughter and putting a hand on Ky’s shoulder. “Thank you for bringing my daughter home safely, although I could have done without the rest.”

“When you named me, I told you I would do everything I could to find a way to protect Rome and make it prosper. This is part of that.”

“I have heard some of the deal you offered the Pict leader. I’m not sure I agree that this will do either.”

Ky wasn’t surprised that the Emperor already knew some of the terms he’d given to the Picts. Ramirus would have certainly had people among the fourth legion and kept a close eye on the situation.

“All I ask is that you hear me out,” Ky replied.

“Fine. Let’s go inside and talk.”

Lucilla left them to ensure the people who’d gone to the oracle with her got the treatment they needed while Ky followed the Emperor into the Palace.

Already assembled were Ramirus and the Senators Taenaris and Lurio. Ky had expected to see Ramirus, who kept his hand in about everything, but the senators were a surprise.

“From what we’ve heard, I thought some of the senators should be present to hear what you’re planning since, if I understand it correctly, you’re suggesting a major change to the very building blocks of the Empire.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m suggesting changes to the building blocks of the Empire. What I’m going to propose is drastic, but I think it’s needed if you hope to survive.”

“I think there might be a limit to the number of times you can use that as a reason,” Lurio said, much more hostile than he normally was.

“Senator, I say this will all due respect. But do you think Rome is safe? Even if we defeat the army that will be coming for us in the spring, do you believe that Rome can then live out its days in peace and prosperity? Even if we kill every single man the Carthaginians send at us, there will be more coming. And even if we kick them off this island, they won’t be finished with Rome. In fact, the more you survive against their efforts to stop you, the more they will send against us. They will have to! Because they rule over a vast empire they could not control if it rose up against them in mass. Rome defying their attempts to conquer it is an existential threat to the control they have to maintain. They will never stop trying to destroy you. The only way to survive is for Rome to find a way to not only protect itself but to defeat the Carthaginians themselves. You have to see that.”

“I think some of that might be exaggerated,” Lurio said, somewhat less hostile. “But yes, I see your point. The rest of the Senate will need more than that if you are going to keep introducing these new ideas.”

“Maybe we should hear his actual proposal before we start telling the Consul it won’t work,” the Emperor interjected.

“Thank you, Emperor. I want to start by saying that, although this came about when the opportunity presented itself, it wasn’t something I came up with then and there. It’s been obvious for some time that for Rome to actually defeat Carthage and end it as a threat, you’re going to need allies. I know there are many of you whose dream is to one day bring Rome back to what it was, a nation of Roman citizens ruling over a vast expanse of subjugated territories, that must swear allegiance to Rome and live under its rule. I can tell you that, even if Carthage is wiped off the face of the planet, that will not be possible.”

Several of the men present, including both Senators, began talking over each other, trying to argue the point. While Ky let them go one for a few minutes to burn off the shock of hearing they would never get their hearts’ desire, he couldn’t help but notice that both the Emperor and Ramirus were silent. Both men had a solid understanding of how the world actually works and were smart enough to do the math and figure out the position that Rome was in. The ones that were upset were too focused on Rome itself to see the reality of the world beyond it.

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