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INTRODUCTORY: PEOPLE DON’T WRITE THAT WAY ANYMORE

People Don’t Write That Way Anymore Claudio R. Salvucci “Literary imitation has become a dirty word to those modernists who insist on being ‘creative’ and ‘finding their own voice.’ Creativity, however, is made fruitful by discipline, and there is no denying that a man well trained in the rather unforgiving laws of physics, can build a more impressive monument than the man who piles bricks to the best of his ‘natural’ ability.” Tastes and interests change in literature. Different themes, different styles, indeed whole different genres come in and out of being depending on the spirit of the age. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for a “classical” style—not in a restricted sense as the style of Greco-Roman antiquity, nor any later genre which took inspiration from it— but rather a super-cultural literary style that rises up above its own genre and belongs as much to the ages as its own time period. This is the old concept of the “Republic of Letters”—a community not of time and space but of ideas, stories and words. A community where a Roman Vergil can pick up the story of a Greek Homer 800 years later. Where an Italian poet can construct an epic around a tome of Christian theological questions and answers, which in turn was a response to the musings of a pagan philosopher. We have heard these works collectively called the Western Literary Canon—but the Republic of Letters is more than just a collection of books, it is a society of people who read, appreciated and added to those works great works of their own. The citizens of this Republic form a school of literature unlike any other. And like any great school, it is not merely a haphazard collection of teachers, but a carefully selected faculty all tied together by a common philosophy of moral virtue. Every author who enrolled in that school imitated and modeled his work on the giants that went before him. Literary imitation has become a dirty word to those modernists who insist on being “creative” and “finding their own voice.” Creativity, however, is made fruitful by discipline, and there is no denying that a man well trained in the rather unforgiving laws of physics, can build a more impressive monument than the man who piles bricks to the best of his “natural” ability. Modernists like to point to a straight line of Western cultural development that goes through all the greats but ends, quite inexplicably, with themselves. In their own self-serving histories of Western art, modernism is the pinnacle, the culmination, the completion of all the advances that went before. Art has indeed turned down a path of modernized secularism and moral indifference these last hundred years. But a convincing case could be made that it is a path not of development, but rather of diversion—that in the very act of deliberately rejecting the Western Canon (and its morality), they have written themselves out of it. After all, the soul of man is no different now than it was in Homer’s time, nor Vergil’s, nor Dante’s. Morals are eternal— and moral art is the truest art in the sense of being true to the whole beauty and order of human nature. Any art that rejects such morality can certainly enjoy a prestigious perch in its

own age, but it cannot last. Immodest and downright vulgar art has been unearthed in archaeological sites throughout the world, some even in privies (a happily serendipitous confirmation of where such works truly belong). However, note well that they have not, like Holy Writ, like Aristotle, like Vergil, been scrupulously copied and recopied and rerecopied by hand and then published and reprinted and rereprinted through countless generations to the present day. And why not? Because indecency, however titillating, was simply not worth that effort. Morality, truth and beauty were. A “chronological snobbery”—as C. S. Lewis called it—has deluded many into thinking that the classical, moralistic style of the Republic of Letters is an outmoded concept. It is no longer in fashion to emulate Aristotle, Livy or Aquinas, nor even Bede, Shakespeare or Hawthorne. People just “don’t write that way anymore.” Yet remember, writers, that the door to the classics is a door in eternity not bound by time or space. Those who wish to join the great Republic of Letters have no need for contemporary accolades. They need only accept the responsibility of writing not only for their own age, but also for their fellow pilgrims on Earth many ages removed. They need only be guided by a desire to reflect, in some dim way, that moral and physical beauty which their Heavenly Father has invested His creation. It is not an entirely useless exercise to criticize modernist literature, but let us not dwell excessively upon its many faults. Time will pass a sentence of its own. Let the dead bury the dead, and let us spend our days more fruitfully by reforging our own link in the literary chain of the ages. People may not write that way anymore, but by the grace of Almighty God, they will indeed write that way again.

Dante, Vergil, and the classical poets by Doré.


Contents Essays People Don’t Write That Way Anymore, by Claudio R. Salvucci .............................................................. inside front cover

Short Stories Classical History—Lives of the Alban Kings: Ascanius and The Lavinian War, by Claudio R. Salvucci .................................. 2 Fantasy—The Curse of Borello, Part III by Robert F. Kauffmann. ............................. 8 Historical Fiction—Deliverance, by Lauren de Vries ................................................ 13

Poetry My Beard, by Anthony P. Schiavo, Sr. ..................................................................... 7 Ballad of Pickett’s Charge, by Kevin Kelly .............................................................. 7

Humor The B.O.G.U.S. Test .............................................................................................. 13 Cover Illustration: Arch, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA. Photo taken and enhanced by Anthony P. Schiavo, Jr.

The Tarpeian Rock is a free periodical published annually by Arx Publishing, LLC, 10 Canal Street, Ste. 231, Bristol PA 19007-3900, USA. Tel. (215) 781-8600 • Fax: (215) 781-8602 For a complete listing of books offered by Arx Publishing, to place an order, or to advertise in future issues of The Tarpeian Rock, please visit our web site: www.arxpub.com To request a back issue of the 2003 or 2004 editions, send $3.00 per issue to Arx Publishing at the above address. All editorial, artistic, submissions, or quality concerns should be directed to Claudio R. Salvucci at the above address. All production, advertising, and distribution questions should be directed to Tony Schiavo at the above address. Unless otherwise noted below, all material is Copyright © 2005 Arx Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, transmitted or otherwise disseminated in any form without prior written permission from Arx Publishing, LLC. All opinions expressed in The Tarpeian Rock represent those of the authors of the articles in question and not necessarily those of the management and members of Arx Publishing, LLC. My Beard is Copyright © 2005 Anthony P. Schiavo, Sr. All rights reserved. For further information, contact the author directly at 432 Rory Circle, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444 • ant31415@aol.com The Ballad of Pickett’s Charge is Copyright © 2005 Kevin Kelly. All rights reserved. For further information, contact the author directly at 619 Manor Dr., Horsham, PA 19044 The Curse of Borello is Copyright © 2005 Robert F. Kauffmann. All rights reserved. For further information, contact the author directly at 2401 Arden Road, Cinnaminson, NJ 08077 • rkauffma@csc.com Deliverance is Copyright © 2005 Lauren de Vries. All rights reserved.

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CLASSICAL HISTORY: Lives of the Alban Kings—Ascanius and the Lavinian War the fruits of recreation through sacrifices made by the men and women who walked this soil before us. It would be intolerably foolish for us to treat such precious gifts with disdain, as if the greatness our ancestors earned by their blood, was readily acquired for a few bronzes at any marketplace. It is, contrarily, the greatest sign of wisdom to still the chattering tongue a moment, and to sit patiently and learn with open ears and hearts, the lessons which the men of old have to teach us.

Too often, history today is relegated to the pathetic status of “social studies.” Tales of heroic deeds and trying times are ignored to concentrate on the study of demographic trends, cultural fads, and societal movements of the most mundane variety. Is it any wonder, then, that the word history has become practically synonymous with tedium? Particularly hard hit has been the study of ancient history, which has been pummeled by bad scholarship that sees all past events through various pernicious political lenses. The following excerpts feature a more classical approach to writing history, attempting to emulate the style and substance of the great ancient historians like Livy and Tacitus. Prologue t is most unfortunate that historians of our day have deemed it necessary, in a vain attempt to avoid flattery, to explain away the heroic deeds of our ancestors. Too many shamelessly tell their stories with an unmanly contempt for the virtues that tradition has ascribed to them. These sneering cynics spare no ink to scorn the good, nor to exalt the worst vices as if they were great advances in the history of man. Convicted criminals are excused as hapless victims, impious tyrants are praised for mocking the gods and the right order of nature. And is there any library in the land which has been spared the grinding teeth and salivating tongues of those vermin who gnaw at the names of our ancestors, as if slandering them merited some great honor? Minds enfeebled by a life of indulgence and selfdegradation know not even what heroism is, and when hear tell of it, imagine that it must be only the dumb luck or skillful subterfuge of a soul no less pusillanimous than they. Therefore I, Claudius Romanus, have undertaken this history of the earliest days of my race, hundreds of years prior to the founding of Rome. I wish first to inform my reader of this most ancient period in the history of the Latins, and second to

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sternly correct the stupidity of those who pretend that a people can remain great in any other way than by observing the divine law and obeying the dictates of morality in all things. Although the kings of Alba Longa are in no small way connected with the founding of Rome as descendants of Aeneas and ancestors of Romulus, the history of this city has remained largely remote in our day. To my knowledge never has their complete history been written until now, and to do so I have made my best effort to collect all I could find about the subject. We must remember that the peoples to whom these events relate were not the Romans of this day—Romulus had not yet raised his walls and sounded the dire warning that followed them. Rather, the Trojan people had just fought a bitter war, and facing utter extinction, displaced themselves to Italian shores where they mingled with the race of aborigines. These two joining, they henceforth were known as Latins and proved themselves worthy of the great honor that we their ancestors would bequeath to them, even though were as yet only a small band amongst the numerous other Italian tribes: the Etruscans, the Umbrians, and the Samnites. It is difficult for moderns to fully comprehend the minds of these our pioneer ancestors. Indeed we marvel at how seemingly effortlessly some of them bore injustice, how eager they were to subjugate their neighbors and how stridently they opposed tyranny. In our besotted contentment, we cannot fathom how a soul be struck dumb with fear when the enemy stands so close to the very gates of the city. For what enemy, in this present day, could drive to the heart of our capital, when so many miles and so fearsome an army stands in its way? Our minds are far from this concern, and we often do not dwell on its effects, but the more pensive soul may well shudder at the thought. If we now have the benefit of peace and prosperity and stability, it is through no doing of our own, nor because the gods have willed us by rights all the comforts of our age. We breathe, we live, we enjoy

Ascanius and the Lavinian War

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scanius, son of the famous Trojan hero Aeneas, by all accounts was yet young when the kingship of Lavinium fell upon his shoulders. There are those who claim that he was even too young to assume the throne, and that Lavinia, his stepmother, was allowed to serve in his stead until he came of age. This I do not reject, but think unlikely, as we know that Ascanius was old enough to walk out of burning Troy, and the years that elapsed between then and the death of his father provided ample time for the boy to attain sufficient age. Though we do not know precisely the date of his birth, he was likely between sixteen and twenty when he assumed the throne, and therefore between nine and thirteen when Troy was taken by the feigned piety of the Greeks. His father Aeneas having disappeared at the end of the Rutulian war, the young Ascanius was made king of Lavinium. Though the Rutulians of Ardea had left the field of battle following the death of their captain, Turnus, the Etruscan tyrant Mezentius of Caere still had war in his blood, and was anxious to resume hostilities against the Latins and their Trojan allies. We ought to remember that Ascanius had by this young age already been expelled from his homeland, driven across the seas and seen both mother and father vanish without a trace—misfortunes which would have instilled in a lesser man cowardice and timidity. Ascanius was not, however, such a man, for his was an impetuous zeal for battle. During the Rutulian war, his father Aeneas had assigned several of his lieutenants the task of looking after the lad to prevent him from plunging headlong into the thick of the fight. The great Aeneas did not, as might be supposed, fear any lack of skill in his son’s use of arms, for Ascanius was scarcely less excellent than he himself, and practiced at winning trophies in contests of martial ability: namely archery, boxing,


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and other manly pursuits. Yet the veterans of Troy and Italy, knowing the grim and savage business of war, would not suffer Ascanius to join the lines until he was old enough to wield his weapons with sense instead of zeal.

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nd now the impetuous boy had become king—too soon, in the opinion of many. He convened a government for the purposes of peacetime administration, but barely had the Lavinians time to grieve for Aeneas when the storms of war descended down from them from the north, led by Mezentius, tyrant of Caere. This Mezentius had supported Turnus the Rutulian in his campaigns against Latinus because he saw an opportunity to take for himself the Latin lands below the Albula River, especially the Alban hills which produced some of the finest wine in all of Italy. Following the death of Turnus, he had sent envoys to Ardea demanding the Rutulians avenge their fallen king, but having met with outright refusal, Mezentius branded the Rutulians as cowards and threatened to raze their walls and decimate the populace when his conquest of Latium was complete. The utter ruthlessness with which Mezentius waged war caused all of Italy

to quake, a savagery made even more terrible by his great genius and cunning, which he used to devise despicable tortures of which a mindless brute could not conceive. So great, indeed, was his cruelty even toward his own people that he had destroyed all those generals and soldiers who were inimical to him—hiring instead as his chief lieutenants mercenaries who did his bidding not out of love for the state, but for the securing of personal wealth. These men scorned to do no evil in war and peace alike. Mezentius himself famously devised an unholy method of torture which he inflicted upon suspected traitors. In great pomp, he would summon the party to his throne, and secretly send his guard out to seize someone who was well known and loved by the accused: a spouse, friend, or even child. Then, at an opportune moment, he would butcher this latter before the unlucky person’s eyes. But that was not the end of it, for when he had no more use for the defendant, he would bind him to the corpse and cast the pair out where the body would putrefy and the convicted man, still living, would die an unspeakably horrible death. That practices as these were completely abhorrent to men of virtue and piety made no difference to Mezentius, who scorned

CLAUDIO R. SALVUCCI

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mercy as an effeminate virtue. He was, in addition to being viciously cruel, consumed with pride as well, and oppressed with great terrors those who publicly manifested any piety whatever. Indeed, he even dared to pass an edict banning the most ancient Etruscan rite of haruspicy, even at those crucial times before a major civic undertaking or following the appearance of an omen, threatening any priest with death if they dared defy him. For this, that wretch deservedly earned the title “Mezentius who despised the gods.” For the Etruscans then as well as now always prided themselves in the gifts of Tarchon, such as the consulting of the haruspex and other very ancient sacred rites. But fear of the tyrant ran great, and as great an abomination this edict was to the pious people of ancient Caere, his power over their lives checked their indignation, at least until such time as they were able to cast him from the throne. And now, at a most inopportune moment before Lavinium had fully recovered from the loss of their king Aeneas, this Mezentius arrived with his mercenaries to besiege the citadel. Fortunately, due to its lofty position, it could not immediately be taken. From the east and north, the hilltop upon which Lavinium stood was most precipitous, and could not be scaled. The


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CLASSICAL HISTORY: Lives of the Alban Kings—Ascanius and the Lavinian War

west and the south were less well protected, as here the slope of the hill was less great; though, to make up for this shortcoming, Aeneas had had the foresight to build walls for his new citadel that rivaled those of Troy themselves: tall, sturdy, and impenetrable. Observing the strength of the fortifications, Mezentius and his generals thus elected to starve the Lavinians until their resistance was weakened or a surrender was offered. Moreover, as the Lavinians began suffering from want of food, the cruel genius of Mezentius did not abate. During the course of the siege, he would not hear any embassies of peace from Ascanius, regarding such meetings as unfit for warriors. Indeed, on those few initial occasions where messengers were sent to the enemy camp offering a cessation of hostilities, Mezentius sent them back humiliated in some way: either stripped naked, or their heads shaved, or covered in filth. And yet, despite these and other hardships which the Etruscans poured upon the Lavinians, no progress was made in taking the city. It seemed indeed that they were encamped before yet another Troy, with no hope of returning home by the winter. The grumbling within his hired ranks compelled Mezentius to devise some

way to appease his troops. He could not, after all his efforts, bring Lavinium to its knees, so he elected instead to ravage the countryside. The Caerean king sent armed emissaries throughout Latium to cities and settlements alike, demanding that the year’s harvest of grapes, which was just now ripening on the vine, be surrendered to him as tribute. This insolent demand outraged the farmers of Latium, who however had no means of returning the vigorous response that it required. The best of their warriors were now confined in the Lavinian stronghold, defending this last refuge from attack; the rest of Latium was undefended and it would have been a simple task for the Etruscans to subjugate the whole of it were they not primarily concerned with other matters. Inside Lavinium, the populace was soon near starvation. Ascanius was compelled to make a decision: whether to stand fast and waste away behind the walls, or risk an engagement of the more numerous force outside. In either case, death was certain. An attack beyond the city walls would very likely mean a wholesale slaughter of the Lavinian men, after which the city would lay open to the rape and murder of the Etruscans. And knowing Mezentius’ cruelty, and considering what

such cruelty might wreak on their wives and children without any hindrance, one can see why, in some respects, starvation seemed the more merciful outcome. But this course, while seemingly logical, smacked too strongly of cowardice and convenience. And no warrior worth his arms, whatever the threat to his person or his family, could bear the thought of a miserable death at the hands of such a tyrant while swords lay idle in their hands. The thought of Mezentius being able to lay waste to their homes and any straggling survivors without ever having been so much as challenged in battle, was entirely loathsome to the Lavinians.

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arthly wisdom having failed to see any hope, the king called together his priests and generals and all of Lavinium. With every entreaty to Jupiter and the other gods, Ascanius prayed that they find success in their bold venture— even though all saw how desperate the situation was. Suddenly, in a perfectly clear sky, there was a flash of lightning from the left—a terrible omen, that struck Lavinians and Etruscans alike with fear. For the like no priest nor king had ever seen before, and they knew not what to make of this sudden manifestation. Ascanius, however—perhaps because Ju-

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piter had granted him a vision, or perhaps to rally his desperate troops, I know not which—interpreted that the omen was favorable. He proclaimed in a bold voice that Jupiter had signaled that the vines of Latium were sacred to him, and that the great god would suffer no mortal man to make a mockery of his. It was not, Ascanius said, in their own arms nor numbers than his fellow Lavinians must now trust—it was the solemn dictates of heaven. And it were better that all Lavinium be ground into the earth, and all mortal lives in it extinguished, than Mezentius be allowed to place his own earthly rule above the eternal rule of the gods. There was a great cheer in the city, and a renewed vigor for the fight, in which all— men and women and children alike— vowed to die in order that the evils of the Etruscan tyrant be destroyed. As the Etruscan army was superior in numbers, Ascanius began at once considering ways to even out the inequities in the upcoming fight. He decided to sally out of the city at night and catch the Etruscans unaware. The Lavinians were hoping to burst into the camp, killing as many of the enemy as they could, and hope that the rest would be so disoriented as to flee. Since the Caeretans were superior in every respect to the Lavinians, the latter’s only hope was to kill the sleeping army before it awoke, thus giving rise to the famous line: “Woe to those who fail at the first stroke.” But for this the Lavinians would have to forgo their armor—if they were heard would be little hope for the Lavinians, armored or not. Also, the force needed on the ground would have to be substantial enough to attack the entire Etruscan fortifications at all points and at the same time; any area left unassailed would allow the Etruscans time to assess the situation and respond with terrible vengeance. There were perhaps enough Lavinians to make this possible, but it would mean that the city walls would be left almost undefended— a great risk—but the plan was doomed to fail otherwise. According to one account, which however I do not find well-corroborated, the wife of Ascanius suggested an ingenious plan: that the women of the city would dress themselves in their husbands’ armor, and situate themselves on the battlements to offer some resistance to the Etruscans should the sortie fail. If there was concern, she reasoned, over the fate of the women if Mezentius should prove victorious, then was it not better for them to die in a fight for their homes with their

CLAUDIO R. SALVUCCI

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The

L aviniad An Epic Poem

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children beside them, than to meekly bow their heads to the Etruscan yoke and suffer whatever indignities Mezentius would levy upon them? This brave plan was universally lauded by the leaders of the city, and Ascanius bade his wife take his armor and her place upon the wall. Thus, on a night when the moon was obscured, the Lavinians stole secretly out of the city. The main gate having been sealed, a secret low breach was reopened in the wall and the soldiers, wearing no armor but of ox-hide or leather, scattered down toward the Etruscan encampments. A few men were sent down the precipice on the northeastern end of the city, lowering themselves down by means of ropes affixed to stumps and branches. Most of the others were given the task of securing the post where Lausus, the son of Mezentius, held command. This was the closest to the city, and victory could not be secured without first taking this post. The Lavinian plan had worked magnificently, for the Etruscan night watchmen, who were by this point annoyed with what must have seemed a pointless task, noticed nothing until the enemy was upon them. The Lavinians burst into the camp and slew everyone they saw, including those that were still asleep. Lausus was killed in this initial attack, probably by Ascanius himself. The loss of their leader prevented the Caeretans from organizing an effective resistance, and so gave the Lavinians the inner post and their first victory of the night. Caught by surprise, those few Etruscans that evaded the murdering blades ran away in fright. Meanwhile, just as they heard the commotion above, the second group of Lavinians who had come down

the northern face struck at the very heart of the Etruscan camp. By this time, the Etruscan sentries and captains had awakened the other troops, but the nature and direction of the attack were as yet unknown. And now a new problem arose: the men at the inner posts were being routed into the outlying camp; they had had no time to put their armor on and stumbled in dirty and half-clothed. Since the Lavinians were likewise not in armor, it became extremely difficult in the darkness to tell one band of men from the other. A great many Etruscans who ran into the fray were attacked by their own comrades, or they mistook Lavinians for their own countrymen and were slain. he ferocity of the attack under the darkness, and the fact that the Lavinians had wisely taken a dangerous risk to spread out their forces and attack multiple locations simultaneously set the Caeretans into so much disarray that proper response was impossible. Only Mezentius perceived immediately that the strike was bold but weak, and despite the chaos he managed to organize a contingent of men and struck back at the bands of Lavinians they encountered. Cunning as he was, Mezentius then realized the city would undoubtedly have been left undefended during the sortie, and he attempted to organize a direct assault on the walls. A contingent of men were sent all the way up the hill, but they were immediately repulsed by a rain of stones and arrows from the battlements. There were clearly armor-clad warriors guarding the walls, and the Etruscans could hardly be blamed if in the confusion they did not realize these to be women. The

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CLASSICAL HISTORY: Lives of the Alban Kings—Ascanius and the Lavinian War

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armor and especially the thick cloudy darkness, to which Lavinium would owe a great debt of gratitude this night, concealed this fact from their eyes. The hasty assault of the walls was called off and Mezentius turned his attention once more to the field before him. His next attempt to form battle lines with his bewildered soldiers however, utterly failed since the men were continually looking about to their sides and behind them, fearing assaults from any direction. But even had the Etruscans formed lines, it is doubtful they could have turned back the Lavinians, who were not attacking in formations that could be easily opposed but in scattered locations like marauding wolves. The enemy was too stunned to respond effectively, and a great many of them fled into the surrounding woods believing that their army had been wholly routed. Thus, a bold but weak assault that could have been easily crushed with the proper response, resulted in a near rout of the Etruscans. Only Mezentius with the few men he had rallied around him were still on the field at daybreak, for if they could not retaliate against scattered bands of the enemy, they could at least hold their posi-

tion, and so they had managed to secure a nearby hill against all attempts by the Lavinians to dislodge them from it. Mezentius was not yet aware how thorough the rout had been, for he had assumed that his camp alone had been raided, leaving the others untouched. Dawn, however, revealed to him otherwise, and furious with what he knew to have been a victory achieved through trickery, he left the field in disgust. Mezentius then returned home to Caere, and the ignominy of having so forcefully demanded a Latin war and then lost it to a vastly inferior force was all the populace needed to force him from office. The king’s mercenaries, receiving no reward for their inglorious service, and discerning the people’s resentment immediately abandoned Mezentius. He was unceremoniously dragged through the streets as if a prisoner from a conquered nation, and hastily executed. For the first time since his tyrannical edict, the haruspicy at Caere was publicly performed as a final insult just prior to the execution of the tyrant. It is said on good authority by those who are practiced in the art that the livers foretold torment for Mezentius as great as that of Prometheus, and this, it was agreed by

all, was more than merited. For their part, the citizens of Caere had seen enough war, and remained on amicable terms with the Lavinians for many years afterwards. There is no reason to assume, as some have, that Mezentius himself had such a change of heart, for he would clearly have preferred to die at the hands of a mob than lead out his days in disgrace; for such was his character. So the great Italian war which had begun with Turnus and Aeneas came to an end, and the peace which Trojans and Latins had long sought was now theirs at last. With the Etruscan people of Caere, who had now seen to the final destruction of Mezentius, a peace was secured, and the river Albula was chosen as the boundary between the Etruscan and Latin nations, and thus it would remain for many years afterwards. For this river Albula would later be renamed the Tiber, and still later upon its banks the city of Rome would rise. Claudio Romano Salvucci is the editor at Arx Publishing and the author of The Laviniad, an epic poem about pre-Roman Italy. Contact him at salvucci@arxpub.com


POETRY

BALLAD

MY BEARD by Anthony P. Schiavo, Sr. It lurked below for fifteen years, beneath my nose between my ears. Then gradually it rose uncalled, my face resisting being bald. Unthinking, when a little showed, conventionally I kept it mowed. Ignoring curiosity, instead I formed an image in my head. I pictured it as silky swirls, lush soft and woolly chestnut curls. In time there joined a grayer stubble, I saw in this no hint of trouble, No thought of it as wiry bristles but like the wispy down on thistles, Just silver threads I’d someday free for elegant maturity. But fate (no friend of plans) decreed, my beard should earlier be freed, When in some foolish midlife urge I let the cursed thing emerge. Each day I watched its slow advance, quite powerless, as in a trance. Expecting an army for a beard, instead a ragtag band appeared, Wherein each whisker tried its best to be much different from the rest. In color, shape, size, and direction, no two alike passed my inspection. And yet, at first there seemed an order, occupied regions and a border, With lands where each shade dominated, though aliens were tolerated. But soon a racial tension grew, among this motley growing crew, Till war between the dark and gray, raged unabated night and day. A war which truly was most strange, as only loyalties would change. And though the victor must be gray, since all defections go their way, As yet the end is not in sight, no change is visible each night. And I am helpless though I see this ugliness emerge from me, For if I shave it I’ll still know that even if it does not show, This Transylvanian Astroturf is lurking just beneath the surface.

OF PICKETT’S by Kevin Kelly

CHARGE

On Traveller with equestrian grace Lee inspected the tattered ranks of grey, Reading loyalty in every face, As when they shouldered their guns on that first day And tilted towards Manassas for the fray. (A passel of wives in tow, heads bonneted And cheeks as ruddy as rosebuds in May.) Fife low for what they shall know of bloodshed. Grave savior of the Confederacy’s face, He’d lost many men in this last foray And with Meade’s division could not keep pace, When came, each sashed with a glinting array Of ammunition like an offering’s lei, A division with Pickett at its head— A man not afeared to return to clay. Fife low for what they shall know of bloodshed. In his corps commander Lee had great faith. “Longstreet,” said he, “we are in disarray. Order Pickett rally his men and race Up yonder hill to break the lines and lay Hold of the Yankees at their point d’appui.” Longstreet demurred. “’Tis suicide,” he said. Then added, complying without delay, “Fife low for what they shall know of bloodshed.” Did ever a martyr’s auto-da-fé Exceed in glory those thousands laid dead, Who certain of their fate did still obey? Fife low for what they had learned of bloodshed.

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Arx Publishing is pleased to present a series of four devotional booklets on the lives and heroic deaths of the North American Martyrs. These brave souls left comfortable lives in France in order to propagate the Catholic faith throughout the primeval wilderness of the New World. Under their spiritual direction, the tribes forged an authentic American Catholicism, animated by an intense fervor and heroic constancy seldom seen since the days of the Roman persecutions. Visit:

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7


8

FANTASY: The Curse of Borello, Part III

by Robert F. Kauffmann Here continues the history of Baron Borello XIV, under whose tenure the Barony of Borelias was nearly brought to ruin. Two monks, Solkek and Ballion have begun an account of the history of Baron Borello XIV as penned by St. Lonias. The account, so far, has covered the founding of the Borellos’ province, and the arrival of a stranger in the hall of Borello XIV who came bearing the greetings of Emperor Ollock, a tyrant in the south, and a platinum mandible said to be a talisman of great power. At first, the Baron receives him graciously, if suspiciously. Then, at the behest of his counselors, he enslaves and oppresses the Vassal, as he is now called. We now turn to the account of how the Vassal tries to win himself into the Baron’s good graces. My dear Brother Ballion, Do not be concerned over the delay in your response. It allowed me to catch up on some of my duties which had fallen into neglect. In any case, the delay was well worth the wait. Furthermore, the passing of time has allowed me to report on a new development. Not only did our superiors read and approve our translation, but a certain nobleman who was staying as a guest in the priory has read the manuscript and asked that copies might be made and distributed at the royal court. The abbot was not specific, but his letter seemed to imply that we might receive the funding necessary to publish our account more generally. Yours in the Lord, Brother Solkek

But the Baron’s response was a roar of outrage: “Silence, O vermin who grovels aground, O dung-kissing, swine-trodden, swill-sucking larva! Listen, though your life hangs by a hair on my mercy And tire not mine ears with your whining ingratitude, So slyly concealed as loyal subservience! For you came to my court with gifts and oaths, Not one of which has blossomed to full fruition! “For, you gave me a gift worth a royal ransom Or, so you had said when slyly you spoke Of this magical mandible of purest platinum Being a relic of power from days of yore. But little have I learned of its nature nor uses From sages of wisdom and arcane arts. They could tell me little or naught of this oddity Save of its aura of power so plain to see. “I charge you, therefore, to tell me truly Just how might I profit from this tiresome trinket Save by melting it to slag to extract its metal?” And the Vassal’s eyes narrowed to razor slivers As a predator who spies an enemy’s weakness. “Am I right in guessing my lord has tried This relic of platinum in forgers’ fires, Finding it impossible to melt or remold?” And the Baron’s rage swelled in the face of impertinence As he drew his blade and held it to the throat Of the Vassal now frozen under threat of force “Tell me now, or upon mine honor,

V Far afield rode Vassal and Baron With baronial retainers riding arrayed In noble regalia befitting the servants Of the lord of a land peaceful and prosperous. They rode, meandering, through dell and vale Along country cart-lanes and waving meadows Till stopped by a stream that frothing ran Through rural green and verdant groves. There paused the Baron, deep in thought Fingering the mandible that gleamed in the sun: This thing of platinum that glowed of magic, But remained inscrutable to the best of sages. And, meanwhile, the Vassal stirred uneasy. So, wishing to regain the Baron’s good graces, And going against his principles of prudence, He prompted Borello in ardent terms: “Lord Baron, I pray you, tell me truly, What troubles your mind, and how may I help? For your face betrays some hurt in your heart. If only you’ll trust me, I’ll set things aright Through counsels with foresight and wisdom deep. For, too long have I lingered, away from your side To serve you best as my talents allow, With enlightening insights that deep counsels decry.”

And the Baron’s rage swelled in the face of impertinence As he drew his blade and held it to the throat


BY

ROBERT F. KAUFFMANN

http://www.arxpub.com/KauffmannArt.com

The M.C. Escher of South Jersey...

Robert F. Kauffmann

9

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I’ll spill your lifeblood here and now! Impart what manner of relic accursed Has passed to my possession invulnerable to harm That might draw all my fortunes to the mouth of hell!” Suppressing a smile, the Vassal then spoke: “Think not your fortunes accursed, my lord, By this thing of mystery passed to your person, But rather a foundation for future fortunes. For its power lies squarely upon its ability To lead you to riches both near and far. Calmly concentrate upon your deepest desires, And internal promptings shall lead you to treasure!” Then the Baron’s rage quivered, inches from murder, As he held the Vassal’s eyes in a burning gaze To discover deception in that hissing snake’s speech. But the Vassal’s eyes steadily bore the Baron’s wrath Till Borello tuned away to consider the relic. His rage bled away as he pondered the Mandible. And, at the peak of his calm, he jumped from his steed And slid down the embankment to the river’s side. His lackeys looked on in utter amazement As he scrabbled at silt with his own noble hands Till washing them clean, he held high in the sun Gleaming gold nuggets, point nine-nine-nine fine. And, smiling, the Vassal slyly supplied, “Where one finds gold in the riverbeds rolling, One will find more from the hills which they run.” And the Baron’s eyes strayed to the skyline abroad. And visions of riches went running through his head Of piles of gold, heaped high in treasuries And mountains of silver stockpiled in vaults.

How their magnetic power toward the human heart Would engender fame and prosperity abounding To his lowly house now raised in the eyes Of the world without, where high nobles reigned, And where kings and emperors sat on their thrones. So an office he made high in his trust For the Vassal to hold to fill a new need To garner the gold now hidden in hills And manage the mines they surely would delve To win with toil the wealth of the earth. And so all rode post haste to the Baron’s house To draw up the plans to man these new mines And manage new wealth and the fame that would follow. Dear Brother Solkek, It is well that our efforts may be unhurried at this time, as, here it is, many weeks gone by, before I was able to finish my part. This canto was particularly long and difficult—and at the risk of seeming a bit overwrought—the content has filled me with an inexplicable foreboding—as though, maybe we do wrong to bring this account to light. It may simply be my weariness speaking through my pen, for I have had to take on the duties of another of our brothers who has fallen ill— though he has since recovered his health. Anyway, I have had to stay up late in order to continue work on the manuscript. Still, I bear all knowing what the Good Lord bore for our sins, and trusting to divine Providence that the task we carry out is according to His will. Ad magnam gloriam Dei, Brother Ballion

VI When midsummer days wore slowly away, Lingering long and fair in golden light, The Baron rode forth, retinues in train


10

FANTASY: The Curse of Borello, Part III To hills on the horizon with Mandible in hand. His platinum treasure lead truly the way To even greater riches residing in veins Hidden under hills to which he laid claim Annexing uncontested new territory to his own. For, indeed, were gold ores found on the mount Where the source of a stream that gurgled from rock With gold flecks glittering at a watery wellspring Led to mother lodes filled with golden grains. And the Baron commissioned workers to dig The rock in those hills to extract its treasures And others to sift the silt of the streams To garner golden wealth it also concealed. And the manpower Borello had curried to toil To extract the gold held hostage in hills Depleted the labor to work the farms Till fields fell fallow from want and neglect. And gold became plenty while provision ran short. Then the Baron, in dismay, called all to council To avert a disaster of ironic dimensions: That the wealthy of famine might perish overwinter. So, upon a late summer’s eve, they gathered together, Nobles and advisors deep in the trust Of a beleaguered baron calling on their counsel At a table of ebony inlaid with ivory. They congregated and greeted each to the other Fair words commending their cares and blessings. But each beneath his feigned and friendly facade Hid personal agendas for political gain. At the head of the table presided the Baron,

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While the others about him were arranged as follows: Scribney an adjudicator, expert in law; Lozak, chief caretaker, and lord of the castle; Marguk, treasurer of the Baron’s fortune; Bezmull the ambassador, skilled in diplomacy; Catrom, a general of the Baron’s army; And Vizor the Elder, renowned for his wisdom. And, all the while, in an out-of-the-way corner Sat sly the Vassal quietly listening, Like an adder awaiting an opportune time To pounce upon prey that passes unwary. But the Baron, wishing to convene at once, Cracked his gavel upon inlaid ebony Calling all in attendance to solemn silence. Then the Baron addressed the assembled at hand: “My dearest advisors, loyal and true, I have called you together upon matters most urgent. For we find ourselves near to harvest and winter With barely the bread to bear us through dearth, And not nearly enough hands to reap and sow What harvest we shall have, come fall of this year. So tell me truly what enters you minds When contemplating this crisis which cries for counsel.” There was quiet at first, as all at hand Pondered the weight of this delicate matter, Till Vizor the Elder, foremost among them, Spoke first his wisdom, as was his wont: “The solution, my lord, to this weighty matter Is not difficult to find, if one faces hard facts: Pull all men from the mines to work in the fields, For harvest will not wait as would buried gold!” And, if wisdom held sway, the matter would have settled With that simple bit of sense, so plain to see. But lawyers love not common nor simple good sense, But the sinuous intricacies of subtle legislation. And in this was Scribney, the Baron’s adjudicator, No exception to such awkward and backward philosophy. So, therefore, he countered Vizor’s wise views With legal technicalities, which have no end: “Wise is Vizor, yet lacking in background To deal with issues concerning legalities. For a contract was formed with the workers in question That they might mine these hills for a share in the gold For the length of one year uninterrupted. It falls not within the law of our land Nor even within the bounds of decency To breach this contract in blatant disrespect.” Vizor’s eyes widened in a show of dismay, Yet he held his temper in the face of flagrancy, And calmly replied with an edge in his voice: “Then let us put to the laborers that mine A call to decency to forsake for a time Their lucrative contracts for gleaning gold To labor to feed their fellow countrymen In this hour of need that falls upon us!” But Scribney brayed with indignation Over the idea that altruism might triumph over greed Or blind adherence to the letter of the law: “It seems unlikely that these hard-working men Who have labored so fruitlessly for a better future Would forsake golden riches to backbreaking toil That is low-paying and thankless—for all its worth.


BY

ROBERT F. KAUFFMANN

11

Or forget you so easily those robber-laden highways That run the long leagues and lonely ways Leading us south to our nearest neighbors?” But Marguk, unmoved, spoke thus in return:

The Epic P oem Lives!

Written and Illustrated by

Robert F. Kauffmann

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They feel duty-bound to build better fortunes for offspring.” “And what future,” roared Vizor, “would they hope to forge For their families and selves if they farm not the food They will need to provide for times near at hand? Will they and their children devour their gold When rations run dry and larders are bare? Such fools as these then want for stern direction! It needs but one edict from the Baron’s mouth And obey they all shall whether they will or nil!” Then Scribney smirked and rasped a dry little chuckle Mocking maliciously a wise man’s loss of temper: “It seems, O Vizor, you have fallen from wisdom To presume to place edicts in the Baron’s mouth— Laws and edicts of your own devising!” And the banter to bickering the debate then devolved, Like the chattering of wild birds, speaking no sense, Till the Baron ended it all with a bang of his gavel. But others there were with views to voice forth, And the Baron, to this end, gave Marguk the floor. “In discussing labor,” the treasurer intoned, “Debate is vain. For the issue at hand is procuring provisions. And through gold it can be we will gain what we need! Let a delegation go forth to our neighbors to the South With gold in hand to garner the goods We shall need to bear us through winter unto spring.” But Catrom the general was unconvinced And so voiced his concerns in no uncertain terms: “It needs more than money to do as you say, For the gold we carry would want an army to guard.

“Interesting though these insights might be, You speak not from experience of being abroad. What does Lord Bezmull, ambassador for our Baron Have to read on these weighty matters?” He turned then to Bezmull to support his speech But was sorely disappointed by Bezmull’s retort: “Counselor Catrom speaks rightly so, For he has heard what I told him but hours ago. “For I am lately returned from such an errand. With a small contingent we carried some gold To purchase provision for this castle for winter. Men we had not from labor to spare To transport provision for our townsfolk and villages— Or we’d have employed them to harvest the fields we now have.” And, silenced by logic, the treasurer held his tongue While Scribney the adjudicator spoke slyly his peace: “If we’ve provision enough to carry this castle Unto spring without the loss of our own lives, Then what need we worry, for, we, the leaders Can salvage the loss of the lesser folk Through more prudent planning for future years.” And this infamous remark inflamed the ears Of all in the room who held honor esteemed, And such bickering arose that no gavel could quell. And, as the din grew louder, indifferent to his cries For order and civility in the council chamber, The Baron’s last shred of patience expired, And he leaped upon the table unsheathing his sword. And raising it high, he thrust it straight down Burying his blade in costly ebony. He roared for silence and was suddenly heard. Then he bade them, “Be gone!” in a flurry of wrath. So all fled in fear from his baleful presence, And he was left alone with one other soul. For, in his quiet corner, the Vassal still stayed. And, having held until now his voice from conference, He knew the vexed Baron would now crave his kind counsel, So he slyly prompted his lord with smooth words: “How, my liege, shall you discern a true path When so many wise men disagree on a way?” And so being needled, the Baron reacted In exactly the manner the Vassal intended: “Wise men!” roared the Baron in infinite ire, “They bickered like beasts, and quarreled like curs! A greater fool you are, even than they, To account them as wise in speech of praise!” And the Vassal behaved as though he were cowed Even as he needled the Baron further yet: “Right you are, as always, my lord and master! Yet, louts though they seem, allow them, please, leeway. For surely they are loyal and mean only to serve. And, mayhap, they stand too near to the problem To see a solution that distance supplies.” “They seek gain, not solutions,” the Baron retorted, “So, tell me, I charge thee, what solutions you see To our infinite trouble by your distant perspective!”


12

FANTASY: The Curse of Borello, Part III “I would not presume—” the Vassal supplied. “Speak!” screamed the Baron, his patience depleted. And the Vassal dissembled, “As my lord commands. It seems that provisions are not really at issue With sufficient harvest at hand to provide our needs, But rather the labor to reap the crop. But where to glean labor to work the hot fields Forsaking the promise of glittering gold?” Then Borello balked, craving forthright speech: “Ramble not riddles, lest rouse you my wroth!” And the Vassal returned, “Import not food from foreign fields, But rather laborers to harvest our own!” The Baron returned: “Wise counsel, Vassal, but already tried! For Lord Bezmull, abroad, solicited labor, But found few who would part from balmier climes To work on alien acres in the more bitter north.” But the Vassal’s counsel was more insidious and sly, Calculated to cultivate conflict from calm: “I speak not of southerners hired for labor But of Northerners bound in chains to serve. For, north lies the plains of Qendacuandu, Where savage folk roam, wild and free, Like horses ready to be tamed to draft! Lead only one raid, and hands will you have!” Then the Baron paused in troubled thought At the notion of returning after so many centuries To a state where slavery stratified society. “Why would I wish to resuscitate slavery To settle so quickly such passing problems? For slavery was abolished in long ages past As inhumane and inefficient: An idle indulgence of decadent nobility.” But the Vassal’s reply slipped sly from his lips: “I have read of those days in the distant past When your first forebear founded this realm from the wilds. Slavery was a necessary, if knavish measure To subdue those savages to his iron will, Only later to be relaxed when loyalty might grow.” But Borello was doubtful over waging war, Adept though he was in the use of arms: “The savages of the north number far beyond reckoning. So how would my mustering stand against these?” And the Vassal’s counsel was brought swiftly to bear: “In arms alone you are more than a match To any savage band you may melee at once. And, mayhap, schooled with the wiles of the civil, You’ll hold an edge beyond your armor and swords!” And the Vassal then looked to the Baron’s face. A smile appeared as the Baron remembered The value of intelligence he had acquired of old Regarding the savages of Qendacuandu. “Perhaps,” he mused, “There may be a way.” And with that he rose and went from the room Leaving the Vassal to wonder and muse As to whether his counsel hand won the day. So he retired to his chambers to rest and sleep.

To be continued... Robert F. Kauffmann is an artist, writer, animator, and computer programmer from Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The Curse of Borello is the sequel to his book, The Mask of Ollock, available from Arx. Contact him at rkauffma@csc.com


HUMOR

13

The Basic Occupational Guidance Utility Statistical Test Instructions: This test infallibly selects the occupation to which you are best suited. It was prepared by individuals at the Dicastery of Upper Hadrianople (DUH) and is renowned throughout Baffin Island for its accuracy. Reading Comprehension: The passages subsequent written are in words. To be read and understand you must. Try make guess answer. Passage Saepe ex me requiris, Iuste Fabi, cur, cum priora saecula tot eminentium oratorum ingeniis gloriaque floruerint, nostra potissimum aetas deserta et laude eloquentiae orbata vix nomen ipsum oratoris retineat; neque enim ita appellamus nisi antiquos, horum autem temporum diserti causidici et advocati et patroni et quidvis potius quam oratores vocantur. 1.)

2.)

3.)

Mathematics: Multiple choice. If x = 0, y = the number of answers to each question, and y = xx (7x–x)+1, then how many answers does each question have? 1.)

19+4= a.) 22 b.) 24 c.) 26 d.) 74 e.) a and c f.) e but not f g.) only g h.) f, g, and h, but not i

4.)

True or false: This statement is false. a.) True b.) False

5.)

The answer to this question is: a.) d b.) c c.) d d.) a

6.)

There are 8 horses lettered A through H. Each horse must be placed in one of the corresponding stalls numbered 1 through 12 with the following stipulations: Horses A, E, I, and L must be placed in stalls with yellow ribbons; Stalls 1 through 11 can only receive horses with five legs; Horse B can only be placed in a stall adjacent to a horse with dropsy; Stalls 2, 5, 6, and 10 are currently on fire; Horse D cannot be placed in stall between horses R and T; Horse K, if placed in stall 4, will immediately go to stall 8 unless Horse F is there, in which case he will go to the nearest stall which is not on fire unless it is occupied by a horse with dropsy in which case he will build a new stall which will be called “the shanty” and stay there unless he contracts dropsy or grows a fifth leg. Keeping these rules in mind, which sequence is possible (#s symbolize empty stalls)?

2.)

If x=10 and y=3, and z=x+y, then x= a.) 1.0 x 101 b.) √100.1 c.) v+w d.) all of the above e.) less than one of the above

3.)

Why did Ensign Ogbert’s ship explode? a.) He ignored the auto-destruct warning. b. ) He threw a lit match into the powder magazine. c.) It struck an A-6 Lithium gravity mine. d.) It was unhappy at receiving low-grade coal.

Reginald and Albert live 700 miles apart. Reginald is traveling 50 miles per hour toward Albert. Albert is travelling toward Reginald twice as fast. In what state will Reginald get pulled over? a.) NC b.) OH c.) NJ d.) OJ e.) Intoxication

4.)

How much did Aunt Chloe’s dress cost? a.) $400 b.) ¥35 c.) 28 pistoles d.) her dignity

A wall encloses a square whose area is 45.07 octillion square angstroms. How many moles of strontium would be needed to fill this area five fathoms deep? a.) 4 b.) 1/0 c.) –21 d.) a lot

5.)

Using Hero’s Paradox, calculate how long it would take a sprinter averaging 20 mph to cross a room 7 feet wide. a.) 1,460 seconds b.) ∞ c.) ∞! d.) ∞ + ∞ – ∞

a.) ########## b.) GARFIELD#1 c.) #%#&#@! d.) #9#9#9#9#9

12 painters can paint a certain house in exactly 46 hours. How many hours will it take 7 other painters to paint an entirely different house? a.) ç¨ b.) √-i c.) d.) Gilbert Kudlow

Results: For every time you answered “a” give yourself 1 point. For every time you answered “b” give yourself 3 points. For every time you answered “c” give yourself 5 points. For every other answer, take away 45 points. If you wrote in the gray area that says “Do not write in this space”, give yourself an additional 200 points. Total your points and see the following scale for your occupational predisposition:

What happened to Marco’s duck? a.) It flew south for the winter. b.) Fabius traded it for a goat. c.) It was served with hot soup. d.) It saved princess Lugubria.

Grammar: Choose the ___ that best completes the sentence. Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one and down he ____ a.) runned b.) ranned c.) rin d.) had gone for the purpose of running.

6.)

2.)

Camptown ladies sing this song ___ a.) Doo Dee Doo b.) Dah Doo Doh c.) Doodle Dandy d.) Duh Duh Duh

Logic: Multiple choice. Note: Some of these questions have less than four answers.

3.)

I can’t get ____ satisfaction. a.) a modicum of b.) even a trifle of c.) the slightest bit of d.) massive quantities of

5

1.)

1.)

2.)

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? a.) the egg b.) the chicken c.) trick question: chickens are viviparous d.) trick question: there’s no such thing as a chicken

3.)

This question can not be answered because: a.) it is repetitive b.) it is redundant c.) it repeats itself d.) it says the same thing over and over a.) it is repetitive

Do Not Write in This Space

Select the incorrect answer (choose only one): a.) this is an incorrect answer b.) this is an incorrect answer c.) this is an incorrect answer d.) this is the correct answer

Score of: less than 0 = Nuclear Physicist 1–10 = Vagrant 11–15 = Journalist 16–20 = Ruffian 21–25 = Rogue 26–30 = Lawyer 31–35 = Pirate 36–40 = Cheese salesman 41–45 = Linebacker 46–50 = Ambergris harvester 51–55 = Carnival barker 56–60 = Centurion 61–65 = Sycophant 66–70 = Argonaut 71–75 = Carnifex Maximus 75 and up = King of Antarctica


14

HISTORICAL FICTION: Deliverance

Young Writers Short Story Contest In 2004, The Tarpeian Rock sponsored a short story contest for youth ages 12-18. The stories were required to be 2,000 words or less and had to be works of historical fiction restricted to one of three time periods: Republican Rome, the Crusades, or early Colonial North America. The winning story received an award of $50. Below, we present the winning entry. As with our poetry contest from 2003, we were impressed and gratified by the superior quality of the submissions. It is heartening to know that young people are able to write at such a high level, despite the ubiquitous gloomy news reports deriding the inferiority of American students. For the 2006 issue, we will be sponsoring a humorous essay contest for aspiring young authors. Details may be found at our web site: http://www.arxpub.com/TarpeianRock/TR_2006_EssayContest.html

WIN

By Lauren de Vries

“W

ill this cursed city not fall?” Camillus lifted a goblet of pale wine to his lips, stinging the cracked skin. Stale air filled the tent, surrounded him, pressed against him with numbing stillness. He spoke aloud again, though he was alone. “The men are restless for the siege to end. Our supplies dwindle. Surely the people of Falerii experience a shortage as well—they cannot endure unaided forever. Yet the city does not fall!” With a rapid swallow, Camillus emptied the last drops of his goblet, then thrust aside the tent’s heavy curtain. White explosions danced as his eyes adjusted to the fresh daylight. The dense array of his army surrounded him: knot upon knot of soldiers, gathered around the fires to sit idly, to wait, their helmets flung in scattered mounds. Smoke snaked toward Camillus on the wafting breeze, and he began to follow its black trail across camp. Men sprang to their feet when he passed, lay down their dice and coins, took them up again at his nod. Like a blow, the full parody of the siege struck Camillus: here lounged the pride of the Roman Republic, the rising terror of Italy, frozen on a derelict field. Futility

NER

mocked him. “Waiting and watching.” Camillus’s voice was grim as he tasted the abhorrent words, yet he knew no other course. Likelihood of overthrowing Etruria’s chief city was slim; Camillus had early resolved against assault, early steeled his men for a siege, yet day soon gave way to weary day. The Romans were restless with waiting. Falerii perched at their doorstep— yet refused to fall. A few tenacious strides brought Camillus to the edge of his camp and the origin of the smoke, a blaze that crackled within sight of Falerii’s gates. The fire was circled by soldiers whose matted beards and dusty ankles mirrored those of the leader they stood to greet. “Excellency.” A legionary separated himself from the group. “Any news of the enemy?” Camillus shook his head, though a reply was not necessary; his jaw tightened with the realization that the words his troops longed to hear were far from his lips. Victory had wind in her wings, and would not alight. That thought was shaken from him, however, when the same soldier gave a shout, pointing across the plain to the Faliscan fortress. “Harken, the gates of Falerii open!” All around, men surged to their feet, and strained against the sun’s intrusive glare. Camillus’s heart leapt with them, then hesitated as unheralded figures, bare of armor, emerged from the city. A murmur of oaths swept through the soldiers. The legionary who had alerted his companions spat into the dirt. “Bah, it is only the cursed Faliscan

schoolmaster who walks his pupils outside the gates. May Pluto take his spirit.” He spat once more. Camillus watched with weighted breast as the distant figures, man and string of half-grown boys, marched under the shadow and shield of towering granite walls. “Often in these past weeks have I heard of this schoolmaster and marveled at his dedication in such a time as this.” Camillus’s men turned at the sound of his voice. “I have marveled also, at nobles who allow their sons to walk so near an enemy.” He fingered his beard thoughtfully, cogitative in the ensuing silence as all eyes turned back to the procession of Faliscans, whose white togas stood out against the walls of Falerii with sharp distinction. “Excellency!” A soldier bounded forward, helmet in hand. “The schoolmaster seems to be leading his pupils this way!” Frowning, Camillus stepped nearer. The Faliscans had left the protection of

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their fortress and begun across the plain that divided the two opponents. Camillus beckoned a messenger. “Alert my officers of the approach of these Faliscans and direct them to this place. Go with speed!” The soldier vanished among the maze of tents, cingulum jangling, feet pounding like a drum—a battle drum that summoned to the front. When the officers arrived, astride hastily saddled horses, a breathless company was assembled. The camp had woken. Roman and Faliscan faced one another, Camillus flanked by his men, the schoolmaster by youths who seemed unsure of his purpose. A worn toga slumped from the schoolmaster’s shoulders, but he made no move to straighten it. Camillus, Republic emissary, pierce the enemy with unflinching eyes, his gaze as strong as sun on armor. Though the boys stood in solemn, wary cluster, they met his stare with dignity. Camillus stepped past the fire and the schoolmaster shuffled to meet him. There was quiet all around; veins throbbed, breath flamed, expectation whirled. “What is your object in coming here, Faliscan, and who are these boys you lead so boldly into my camp?” Murmurs rippled through Camillus’s troops. “Honorable Roman.” The schoolmaster spoke in a low, thin voice, and threw a furtive glance at the youths behind him.

“Honorable Roman, the purpose I represent is not one you would care to dismiss.” High above the field, a hawk shrieked; it’s grey shadow skimmed the ground and razed upturned faces. There was momentary distraction, lips mouthing entreaties to Mars, fingers grasping rings to ward off ill fortune. Camillus prompted the schoolmaster, whose eyes quivered on the hawk. “Faliscan?” With a swallow, the man recalled himself. “My purpose is peace,” he said, bunching his tunic. “These boys I bring represent the noblest households of Falerii— sons of the highest officers in my city. I bring them here to give them up to you.” At this, a startled clamor rose from the youths. They would have bolted, but for the Roman spears; helpless, they called down curses on their master and his treachery. The soldiers marveled as well, faces washed in surprise. Camillus alone had not deviated at the sudden offer. He continued a steadfast gaze on the schoolmaster, who stretched out his hands. “In doing this I give up the city, for their fathers will surrender to you in order to receive their children back.” The Faliscan wet his lips and shifted uncomfortably in Camillus’s silence. “Do you not desire peace? Accept this proposal and our

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peoples will be restored to their homes, to harmony.” The sun lay like a coal on Camillus’s neck; his hand, resting on his sword, flicked with the impulse to move, but he resisted. In that moment his senses were tuned clearer than he could ever remember them being: he tasted the flakes of his cracked lips—felt the smooth ivory of his sword hilt—smelled the sweat and dust of an aging camp—heard the stomp of impatient sandals. Beneath all, Camillus was aware of his heart … beat, beat, beat, beat. The melée that heaved inside him matched that cadence … war, peace, war, peace. His decision couched in a labyrinth of judgement, a coil of wheat and chaff. He felt the hope of every soldier present, the weakening state of his army, the prosperity that would accompany the conquest. If he refused the schoolmaster’s terms his army could not long sustain the siege. Yet Camillus knew no stronger breastplate than honor untainted. “Villain,” he cried, disgust elevating his voice to thunder, “we Romans are not so base as you. We do not make war upon children, but upon men who do us wrong.” Camillus whipped around to face the troops, his red woolen cloak flaring out behind him, a rippling standard. “Today victory was offered us, through a cunning scheme that would have ended


16

HISTORICAL FICTION: Deliverance

both siege and war. But we are Romans— not wolves at dusk. Deeds shall win this battle.” A stentorian cheer went up from the soldiers, rallied despite their anxious, flagging spirits. Two legionaries gripped the schoolmaster, who shouted and writhed to free himself as his students looked on, their faces dazed. Camillus allowed the clamor to recede before delivering orders. “Bind this Faliscan’s hands and fetch me a dozen stout rods.” The youths watched in a kind of stupor, while their traitorous master was bound and then released. He stood with cryptic eyes on Camillus, too recreant to attempt flight. A solider drew near, carrying a bundle of rods. Camillus took them and approached the cluster of Faliscan boys. He held out a stick to each, their faces lighting as they realized his intention. “Youths,” said Camillus, “scourge this villain back to Falerii.” His voice rose like a cornu. “Let the people whose peace he is so good to consider decide his fate.” Grinning devilishly, the boys turned on their master with eager hands. He stumbled over a stone, caught himself, and was a league across the field. Though fleet, the master was soon skirted by his pupils and their rods; screams coursed

back to camp until the last boy disappeared inside Falerii’s gates. All eyes had followed the procession, mirth giving way to throbs of compunction, checked by swift self-reproach. At last, the soldiers curved back to their fires and bedrolls, quiet in the aftermath of a

paragon that had stirred their hearts. Camillus watched them go, a grim smile playing on his lips. Unbroken days stretched before them once more. Lauren de Vries is 17 years-old and resides in Illinois


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The Tarpeian Rock, Volume 3, 2005