Ancient World Novel
The Best Means of Conquering
In this Ancient World Novel, planned deceptions don’t work out as planned. Expectations take a serious turn when Roman legions arrive on Celtic shores.
Seanan dreamed of revenge. Gutun must cower before him—with his hands clenched in a beseeching attitude, begging for forgiveness and the right to slink into obscurity. And if his wife regretted her injustice to him, so much the better.
He marched swiftly over the short grass, his leather sandals straining against weary muscles. With his bags slung over his shoulder, his arms moved rhythmically at his side. Small huffs of breath bloomed white in the morning chill. He flexed his arms and stretched his neck in the habit of a man who knows that he must be prepared for sudden action.
His long black hair ran down his neck, blowing in the breeze. He scratched his short beard. An irritating insect plunged its hapless body against his neck, and he swatted it with more force than necessary.
Tainair glanced over, eyebrows up.
Seanan frowned and tried to think of an appropriate curse for an insect.
A distant figure approached. A large, lanky man marched forward.
The stranger increased his speed. Connan, a clansman and friend, ran forward, gesturing toward a grove of trees.
Once hidden in the thick grove, everyone gathered around.
Connan knelt before Seanan. “We have waited long for your return, hoping that the gods would see fit to preserve your life and set us free from our oppressor.”
Seanan wrinkled his brow and tugged the man’s sleeve none too gently. “Get up, man! I am no god to worship.”
Connan rose to his feet, his gaze on the ground.
Exasperated, Seanan cajoled his friend in his best I- will-be-calm voice. “You got the message that I was returning. So, what has Gutun been up to? Is everyone sick of his tricks yet?”
Still frowning, Connan sighed and lifted his gaze, sparing Seanan a glance. “Worse than Gutun. Romans are coming! One of their greatest fighting men and several legions have been sent to conquer our island. Rome is never satisfied. She wants the whole world!”
Delighted, Seanan’s smile widened. “A Roman warrior, eh? With legions?” Seanan looked around at his men and lifted his hands in wonder. “This is better than I had hoped. I mentioned to a few people that a Roman was coming with plans to take a piece of our territory, and now a great Roman warrior is coming with legions. I feel as proud as a papa to see my humble little story grow to such mighty proportions!”
Connan considered Seanan through narrowed eyes. “They landed on our shore only yesterday. How could you have heard about it when you’ve been far from home? Have you been traveling with Romans?”
Undaunted, Seanan shook his head. “Oh, Connan, you never did get anything straight. I know about it because I invented the whole thing. I’ve been traveling with a Roman boy for months. We split up a short time ago. He won’t arrive for another day or so, and by then, I’ll have arranged passage aboard a ship. You’ll meet him and make sure that he gets on the right ship.” Seanan’s eyebrows rose in speculation. “So tell me, how far to shore? We’re tired and in need of rest.”
Connan jerked his thumb back. “The shore is about a half of a day’s march, and a ship is ready. Your message got through all right. Still, I don’t understand. How can a Roman youth leading a legion be both in front of me and behind you?”
Seanan swung his bags over his shoulder. “You’re just confused. Georgios—that’s the boy’s name—is behind us. I left him not long ago.” A new thought intervened. “Are there other ships arriving soon?”
“The port is always busy. Ships arrive every few days.”
“But will one sail to our island soon after the one we take?”
Connan shrugged. “I think so.”
“Good, that’s all I need to know. Normally, I wouldn’t split up, but this plan was too good to fail. Wait here and meet Georgios and the others and lead them home. We’ll go ahead and get everything ready.” A painful memory flashed through Seanan’s mind. “How are my sons?”
Connan’s face brightened. “Very well indeed. They’ve become mighty in the sight of the gods, and Gutun does not pursue them openly, though he’d like to. You’ll find a welcome surprise awaiting when you return.” His gaze turned inward, a worried frown building between his eyes. “If you get home. I hear the Roman warrior and his men are heading into the valley.”
Seanan shook his head. How can such a well-meaning fellow could be so obtuse? With hearty encouragement, he clapped his arm around Connan’s formidable shoulders. “I have a plan. Don’t I always have a plan? By the green grass of our ancestors’ graves, did you think I’d walk into a trap?”
Connan sighed, bewildered. “I don’t see how you can have men before and behind you at the same time.” He shrugged. “I’ll wait for Georgios and pray that he is as good a warrior as the ones landing on our shores.”
With a snort, Seanan gestured to the men behind him. “Didn’t I tell you that everything would work out? We’ll give Gutun the surprise of his life—and then I’ll say hello to my wife!” He patted his bulging pack and sighed, well satisfied. He might allow her a glimpse of the treasures he had acquired before leaving her for his new home—a green knoll set off by four great oak trees, a spot he had always loved. He would build a luxurious home, and Fiona could see him from a distance and know what she had rejected. He smiled dreamily as he continued his homeward march.
Connan sat down to wait for the Roman boy. How can a Roman warrior be both in front of and behind me? He lay down, resting his head on his arm, and watched the grass as it swayed in undulating waves. He let his mind wander, for it was not his place to question the clan leader. And, anyway, things usually work themselves out in the end. At least, that’s what I’ve always been told.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 18 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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