germandjinn

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Ave Iupiter! Ave Roma!
 

stnylan

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*puts on best British accent*

By Jove they've done and done it!
 

blitzthedragon

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How much did you expand Byzantium's frontiers up to 827?
 

JabberJock14

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A madman and an apostate, and Sergios has anointed him!

Emperor Julian would be proud! The Apostate's revenge, 400+ years in the making.

So my question was answered - the next move is taking Italy. As it should, since in game time, you aren't that far removed from Justianian where a dream of retaking the peninsula wouldn't be that far-fetched.

Looking forward to the war against the Carolingians. Should be an interesting fight given the size of the two Empires. Hopefully you don't run into the issues of the real life Eastern Empire of having to fight enemies on two fronts.
 

Eludio

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How much did you expand Byzantium's frontiers up to 827?
I'll post maps soon again, after chapter 9. Or 10, I have to see how far I can get with either one.

Looking forward to the war against the Carolingians. Should be an interesting fight given the size of the two Empires. Hopefully you don't run into the issues of the real life Eastern Empire of having to fight enemies on two fronts.
The first fight with the Carolingians was... anticlimactic, to say the least. The real challenge however, was for the real prize sitting in the Peninsula, and that is not some random Italian Duchy ;)
 

Eludio

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Well, sorry for the long wait guys! I have had a few RL matters to attend to and haven't managed to finish what was to be the chapter in which Iulius hands over the reins of the AAR to a new character. I say was because apparently the Forums editor did not like it, and deleted my draft, which I was foolish enough not to save on a word document. So I'll go back to writing, but it will take at least a week-end before I can finish it.
 

stnylan

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No worries. Whenever you have the time, we'll be ready to read.
 

Eludio

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YpoOD77.png

Chapter IX: When in Rome

8nkHMFn.png


“Lartiuuuus! Roma Invicta!”

Iulius felt good shouting his old war cry again. He still remembered the first time he had uttered those words, leading a cavalry charge to rescue his brother Titus from an unwinnable battle. Years had passed, long years in which he had passed from being a simple warlord under the rule of a barbarian Emperor, to being the leader of the greatest power on Earth. Yet in that moment it seemed as if though no time had passed at all. Once more he was a simple General, unburdened by the weight of rule and legislation, riding under the banner of a great Emperor. Once more he was leading a cavalry charge to save a man who was facing unbeatable odds for the glory of Gens Lartia. Only this time he was not riding to his brother's rescue, but to his nephew's.

Vibius was fighting at his men’s side, leading the force that was to smash through the papal defenses and reach the walls of the Eternal City herself, proud Roma. He looked at his uncle with gleaming eyes as Iulius rode to his rescue, and the old Lartius couldn’t help but stare in wonder at his nephew, who after hours of fighting still looked strong and regal in that golden scale armor that had been his father Titus’s. Soldiers bearing the sign of the cross rushed him on every side, yet he managed not to lose his composure, striking them down with powerful and precise blows. It was on that day, fighting beneath the shadow of the Eternal City’s walls, under the sign of the Eagle, that Vibius became famous as the Sword of Mars, for indeed it seemed as if though the God of War himself had lent him his strength. Some days Iulius had trouble believing the boy had been schooled to be a diplomat.

“Charge men! Rescue your Caesar!”

The papal forces quickly broke as they saw Iulius’s cavalry leading the Roman reinforcements. Even now that it was streaked with gray, Lartius’s red hair flowing in the wind still caused more panic in the eyes of his enemies than even the thousands of men following him. On the soil that had been covered in the blood of Vibius’s soldiers now lay hundreds of shields painted with the cross or the papal pair of keys, abandoned by fleeing men, no longer that confident in their God’s assistance. The whole Christian world had risen up in defence of the Holy Father, safe the recently broken Carolingian Empire, but the Lartii had shown that no one could stand up to the might of the Roman Legions.

“Uncle!” Vibius coat was still encrusted with blood as he went to hug Iulius.
“Caesar.” Iulius bowed his head. His nephew did not mind being called thus as much as he had, and he needed to show the men who was their commander now. Vibius noticed, but still hugged the man.
“The City is ours! We’ve finally done it! My father would have wept tears of joy had he seen this day. Now we can finally visit him again.”

Titus, like all the members of Gens Lartia, had been laid to rest in the family’s mausoleum near Rome. The Pope had seen fit to deny access to the place to all those that carried the name of Lartius ever since that fateful day in which Iulius had openly proclaimed his fealty to Jupiter and the Gods of the ancients. Now, however, the decision to grant access to the City was out of the Pope’s hands, his so called Constantine’s Donation having been denounced as a forgery and burned by Vibius’s soldiers.

“We have won, nephew, we have shown the world that ours was not but a fool’s dream.” Iulius grinned as the gates of Roma’s walls were swung open before him. Or rather, before Imperator Vibius Lartius. Iulius had won his last campaign in northern Italia, had seen to it that his name would live on forever in the annals of history, and was now ready to retire to a small estate, mayhaps in Aprutium, and live the rest of his days in peace.


ZtKpLPh.jpg

“Where is Coelestinus?” Vibius’s gaze was cold as stone as he stared down Cardinal Ordoño’s eyes. The Preferatus gulped but remained silent. He was shaking visibly, terrorised by the knowledge that he was at the mercy of the apostate Emperor, yet unwilling to betray His Holiness.

“Seeing the ease with which your men in the City have surrendered...” the Imperator started, still not averting his gaze. “I would wager the Pope has already left the city, smuggled in some old woman’s garb. That is good. Let it be known that the cowardly patriarch has refused to face me. Go, Cardinal, I have no further need of you. Flee to your King Gundemar. And tell him how mighty the Legions of Rome are.”

Vibius had taken his prize, but still the Pope’s defenders opposed him, King Gundemar of Leon leading the Holy Alliance. The Romans had hoped that, after Iulius’s conquests had wrenched Firenze and Pisa from the Karling Emperor, the Holy Father would have found himself isolated and undefended, leaving Latium ripe for the taking. Instead, the cry “Deus Vult” had resounded in the courts of every Christian ruler in Europe and Africa, and the Empire of the Romans had found itself under siege on every possible front, from Hispania in the West to treacherous Trebizond and Apostolic Armenia in the East. Even the Copts of Abyssinia and Nubia had answered the call and marched against Vibius’s brother Salvius in Alexandria.

“Spoleto.” Iulius growled. “Coelestinus hides in Spoleto. It is the last safe fortress he can reach without having to cross our lines. The port is blockaded, and he could not flee North without being discovered by our armies.”
“Good.” Vibius nodded. “He can rot there for as long as he wants. At a day’s march from Roma, he will be an hostage in all but name.”
“That is not wise, nephew.” the elder Lartius shook his head. “We must make an example out of the man. Show the world that the Rome of the Caesars will not be defied without repercussions.”
“I had promised him the cross.” he added after a moment of reflexion, much to his nephew’s consternation.

“This cruelty does not befit you, uncle.” Vibius spoke with a note of reproach. Iulius had been a mentor to him, but he had never been afraid to speak his mind. “And ours is not the Rome of the Caesars. It is the Rome of the Lartii, besieged on all sides, and it needs as much recognition from the West as it can get. Making a martyr out of the one man that can legitimize our occupation of Rome in the eyes of the Christians would be suicide. I need a peace treaty, bearing the Papal seal. It will soon be revoked, but at least it will buy us time.”
“And you think the Pope will concede?”
“He will.” Vibius smiled. “After all, you did promise him the cross.”

“Caesar!” Legatus Constantinus Fulvius of Sicily entered the Conclave’s Chambers in a hurry. He had been at Vibius’s side for most of the Latian campaign, and although the Emperor would not go as far as call him a friend, he trusted the man enough to let him sit on his council.
“What news, Fulvius?”
“Dire ones, Caesar. From Florentiae.”

Vibius frowned. If the Karlings had entered the war, it would mean he had to leave the newly conquered City as soon as possible.

“Speak, Legatus. Don’t keep me in the dark! Do the Carolingians march against us?”
“Not as far as we can tell, Caesar.” Vibius sighed in relief. “But neither has Emperor Tancrad stepped in when the armies of Leon crossed his borders in force, along with the Christian dukes of Cordoba and Zaragoza. They now besiege Florentiae, six thousand men now stand at the walls of the city.”
“Six thousand men?” the Emperor arched and eyebrow.
“Yes, Caesar. With reinforcements coming by ship from the East, as Proconsul Taxiarches’s report tells us.”
“Thank you, Legatus.”

“Uncle, Rome must call on you one last time.”
“I’ll be ready to march within the hour.” Iulius bowed his head as he pounded his chest.
“No, dear uncle, I will march with the armies to rescue Legatus Julian’s garrison.” Vibius expected his predecessor to interrupt him, but Iulius remained silent. “I need you to handle a much more delicate task. I need you to rule Rome.”
“Vibius. I am a general. We can both agree that, given the state of Constantinople’s streets, I have been a poor ruler.”
“You are too modest.” Vibius chuckled for a moment, but soon grew serious. “But Rome is a newly conquered city. I will need you here, making sure it isn’t retaken. And I need the men to see I can win battles, not just fights.”

Iulius gazed in his nephew’s eyes for a long time. He was right. The men of Rome needed to see their Imperator step out of the Red Eagle of Lartius’s shadow.

ZtKpLPh.jpg


“Mars, grant me strength. Minerva, grant me wisdom. Jupiter, grant me victory. CHARGE MEN, FOR ROME!”

Vibius’s men unleashed hell at his signal, the best of the heavy legionary cavalry riding at his side towards the papal army. The Roman infantry had met the armies of the Christian Pact straight on, their shields thundering like Jupiter’s own bolts when they had smashed against the enemies’. The Emperor had kept his own cavalry hidden from the enemy scouts, and it now cleaved through enemy lines with ease, the Pope’s own light horsemen unable to compete with the armored knights that followed Vibius. The christians’ tried to halt the cavalry’s advance, reforming a shieldwall to face the new arrivals. History might be written by the victors, yet the skill of King Gundemar’s generals was undeniable, and they managed for a while to stop the Romans’ advance, standing shoulder against shoulder with their men, breaking their spears against the horse’s cataphract armor.

Vibius was in the heart of the melee when he gestured his signifer to sound the war horn. At the instrument’s clear note a second wave of Roman cavalry charged the christian army, assaulting them from the feebly defended left flank. Blood began to flow, and Thanatos reaped a good harvest that day. The rest of the battle was a massacre. The christian horsemen soon fled, abandoning the archers to be slaughtered by the Roman skirmishers. The footmen themselves realized that their situation was desperate and tried to turn on their heels and run, but most of them ended up crushed between the flanks of Vibius’s army, that had already by that point almost encircled them. The King of Leon was not ready to sound the full on retreat, and the young Emperor, skilled though he might have been in the art of War, still had to learn how to win a battle without turning it into a carnage.

The Battle for Florentiae was not yet over, but as Vibius hightailed through the field, his golden scale coat gleaming, his helm’s crest flowing in the wind, mingling with his crimson cape, everyone understood that the War for Rome’s soul had ended. The young Lartius really looked like a Hero out of epic poems as he raised his sword high in the sky, it’s blade shining brightly despite the blood that tarnished it. The onlookers later told of how the Roman Emperor had on that day wielded a bolt of lightning that Jupiter Himself had given him.

ZtKpLPh.jpg


“SONS OF MARS!”

The crowd answered with thundering cheers as Vibius addressed them, standing near the columns of the temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. There, according to legend, the Sabine women had, centuries before, walked in the midst of flying arrows and spears to stand between their armed Roman husbands and their vengeful Sabine fathers. He had ridden through the streets of Rome in a triumph of the kind that the Eternal City had not seen in hundreds of years. The kind of triumph reserved for the greatest Generals of the Roman People. The triumph of an Imperator.

“ROME IS YOURS!”

Vibius had been schooled in the Ars Rhetorica practically ever since he had been able to speak, but in that moment it seemed that he had but to shout and the crowd would have roared in approval. And mayhaps it was thus. After all, he had everything on that day. He had youth. He had victory. He had a treaty bearing the papal seal that acknowledged his power over the Eternal City. And he had ten thousand men standing at the gates, ready to ensure that said treaty was respected.

“For the first time in centuries the Eagle of Rome once against flies atop it’s nest!” Vibius drew his blade as he paced in front of temple, then suddenly stopped and pointed it at his audience. “Yet there are those of you who say that I should be feared, that I should be hated. There are those who would prefer the rule of the Pope to that of their own Roman brothers!”

Silence had spread in the audience. Silence and fear. Fear that the tales they had heard, about an apostate that had forced the Byzantine Senate to recognize him as Imperator and sacrificed living men to his pagan Gods, were true. That the lights of ancient Rome had been truly extinguished, and replaced with pyres of christian symbols, torn from the walls of desecrated churches.

Vibius grinned. He had the people of Rome precisely where he wanted them. He threw his sword in the air, and almost cut himself as he grabbed it by the blade, amidst the gasps of both the crowd and his soldiers. Iulius chuckled at his nephew’s taste for flamboyance. With a wide smile still printed on his face, the young Imperator presented the hilt of his gladius to his audience.

“To those people I say this!” He exclaimed. “Don’t! There is no need for fear, no need for hatred. We may follow different Gods, we may pray in different temples, but when all is said and done, we are Roman!”

Some timid cheers began to once more emerge from the crowd. The pagan Imperator had chosen not to win over them, but win them over, and it was working. Whereas they had heard only words of intolerance and hate from their Holy Father, he spoke words of friendship, of acceptance.

“So I beg you, my Roman brothers! I beg you, let us not fight each other! Let us once more stand together, and teach those that would oppose us that we, together, remain the greatest people of the world!”

The people of Rome roared. Apostate or not, Vibius spoke words that reminded them of times past. Times in which being a Roman Citizen was the greatest boon a man could wish for. Times in which the Eternal City was not a crumbling ruin through which barbarian hordes marched unchallenged.

“And I beg you, o Romans, to welcome your Senate and myself, as we return home, to the fair City which we never should have abandoned, to never again leave it in the hands of conquerors. The Empire of the Romans shall rule the world, and it shall be ruled from Rome!”

The ancient arches of the Circus Maximus almost came down as the people of Rome exploded in thunderous applause. Grown men were crying like women, tears of pure joy rushing down their faces. Women, respectable roman matrons, were cheering like little children, unable to contain their happiness. Small children were clapping their hands like distinguished noblemen, stunned at their parents’ emotion, unable to fully understand the importance of the words with which Vibius had given Rome back its dignity.

ZtKpLPh.jpg


Iulius smiled sadly as he walked towards the port of Ostia. Vibius had received the triumph he deserved, had officially been named Imperator by the Senate, that once more held its meetings in the Curia Iulia, and had settled himself in the Pope’s old appartements while the ancient Domus Augustana was made fit for the most powerful man in the world. The red haired Patriarch of Gens Lartia was ready to lay down his arms once and for all, to finally retire to the Villa in which he had been born, in the loving arms of his father Avitus.

But first there was one last matter he had to attend to in Rome. One last duty before he could finally dedicate himself fully to the tending of his fields, to repairing his relations with his wife, whom he never could truly hate. Before he could start writing his chronicles of the Deeds of Gens Lartia.

“There you are, Aurelius.” Iulius sighed at the sight of his brother.
“Imperator.”
“I am not Imperator any longer.” Iulius grimaced.
“The Senate never revoked the name, did it?”
“It is so much more than a name now, and all that it is, I gave it away.”
“Even so, you’ll always remain my Imperator, lord Iulius.”
“Thank you. Now please, leave me a moment.”
“Of course.”


Iulius walked towards the small urn slowly, as his servant Gallienus left him alone. It was a small thing, but finely made, of the whitest marble from Paros, decorated with golden engravings of a procession to the god Mercury’s altar.

“You are home, Aurelius, home at last.”


A single tear ran down Iulius’s face as he lay a hand on the urn.

ZtKpLPh.jpg





Author's Notes: Thus Rome passed in Roman hands, and Iulius remained the last of Avitus's sons still alive. I already made a post about what happened to this chapter, and while I do think some parts had been better written in the first (lost) version, I'm not upset with how it came out in the end.

I chose to skip Iulius's campaigns in Italy and his abdication, mostly because the conquest of Pisa and Tuscany was pretty much unchallenged, and the Carolingians had barely assembled their troops when I had already occupied all the territory necessary to enforce my demands. As for his abdication, I always saw Iulius as the man that did his duty. He was only as ambitious as that duty called on him to be, and when I lost the trait by event, I decided it was time to let Vibius take on the reigns.

Aurelius died precisely as soon as I sued for peace and conquered Latium, so that was a sad little note to an otherwise war centered chapter. I tried to paint a private scene. Nothing grand, nothing tragic, just bittersweet resignation in the face of death.

Iulius has retired to private life, and I won't take advantage of his skill in any Council position. It would make little sense for him to abdicate only to find himself Marshal, which as far as I see it, means he would command all of the Empire's armies. He will retire to private life, try to fix his marriage (he is both lover and rival to his wife, wtf?) and start writing the Deeds of Gens Lartia (or as they are known in latin, Res Gestae Gentis Lartiae).
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Well now, an aim long imagined now achieved. He is surely due a quiet restful retirement.
 

ThetrueColt

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A nice and fitting ending for Iulius indeed. When you make some new maps, be sure to include a religious one as well. I am curious to see how the old gods fare in a world of Christendom! :)
 

Eludio

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Well now, an aim long imagined now achieved. He is surely due a quiet restful retirement.
That he does. I like to role play the Lartii as a more "traditionalist" Roman family, and Iulius taking Cincinnatus's way made sense. Plus, I found it fit his character arc quite well, showing how he didn't really change much from that young kid that Avitus entrusted with power He hadn't asked for.
 

Eludio

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A nice and fitting ending for Iulius indeed. When you make some new maps, be sure to include a religious one as well. I am curious to see how the old gods fare in a world of Christendom! :)

Chapter 10 is going to be the biggie, after that I will post maps. I swear hahaha.
 

JabberJock14

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Iulius is a Roman of the old school - stepping aside rather than remaining until death, even if he keeps the title in the family. A noble man, worthy of the title Imperator. Vibius has a great deal to live up to. Hopefully, Iulius can achieve some measure of family peace in his old age - and that we get a small update or two on if he is successful.
 

JabberJock14

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Ludo, I am pleased to pass on the latest Best Character Writer of the Week award to you for your writing of Iulius! I could have easily given it for Avitus, so consider it well earned!
 

Eludio

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Ludo, I am pleased to pass on the latest Best Character Writer of the Week award to you for your writing of Iulius! I could have easily given it for Avitus, so consider it well earned!

I don't know what to say, if not that I'm honored! Thank you very much, it means the world to me that my writings are proving to be enjoyable.
I'm in the middle of exams right now, so I haven't had much time to play, but chapter X is already half written, so as soon as I have a spare moment I will complete and post that one at least.
 

ManuelD'Garkia

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If Justinianus was "The Last Roman", Iulius shall be the "The First New Roman", as well as he shall be given the title of Pater Patrie and the divinification Julius Caesar had, c'mon, he returned the Empire to the track of restoration. I hope we can get an chapter of two of his retirement and his work of the Gens Lartii.

And as a new Imperator Caesar Augustus ascends, I must say:

Ave Imperator Caesar Augustus Vibius, ave Roma, ave Imperium!

I hope Vibius lives to the precedent of Iulius and retakes at least Justinian's borders.

Btw, now that you are Hellenic, Do you have the Holy War CB against other religions? And, When are you embracing Roman culture? Or did you did it already?
 

Eludio

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If Justinianus was "The Last Roman", Iulius shall be the "The First New Roman", as well as he shall be given the title of Pater Patrie and the divinification Julius Caesar had, c'mon, he returned the Empire to the track of restoration. I hope we can get an chapter of two of his retirement and his work of the Gens Lartii.

And as a new Imperator Caesar Augustus ascends, I must say:

Ave Imperator Caesar Augustus Vibius, ave Roma, ave Imperium!

I hope Vibius lives to the precedent of Iulius and retakes at least Justinian's borders.

Btw, now that you are Hellenic, Do you have the Holy War CB against other religions? And, When are you embracing Roman culture? Or did you did it already?

I do indeed have the Holy War CB! Most of the wars the characters have spoken of were Holy Wars, but for the conquest of Pisa and Firenze which were fabricated claims.

I did already embrace Roman culture, but from a role play standpoint I am still in the middle: both Iulius and Vibius have been acting more like Early Empire Principes than ninth century Emperors, but I try to justify that by saying that Iulius had to legitimize what was, after all, the usurpation of the Isaurian throne. Thus they have to be more "democratic".

Plus, golden laurels look better than that pearly greek crown.
 

Eludio

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BYU7HXd.png

Chapter X: For the Senate and the People of Rome

w2ERSE8.png



Vibius looked around at the ten men that stood in front of him, in the recently renovated audience hall of the Domus Augustana. In that ancient palace, built by Domitian in ages past, were now assembled the last living members of Rome’s most ancient Gentes. The Imperator wondered whether there was even as much as a trace of the old patrician blood in half of them. In the end, he reckoned, that wasn’t important. These men were to be a symbol, and they were willing to become one, and that was all that he needed. Gens meant more than blood.


“Fellow Romans!” Lartius spread his arms in a welcoming gesture, while the patricians bowed their head and saluted him, never lowering their gaze. He smiled. These men had lost most of their authority to younger noble families under the Papacy, yet no one had managed to take away their pride.


“It warms my heart to see that the blood of ancient Rome has not died out entirely. For years my fathers of Gens Lartia have fought against the barbarians as if we were alone. And yet now, in your eyes, I see we are not alone. I see that there are yet proud Romans to be found in this city. Citizens that bade their time, looking for a favourable opportunity to strike, and that are now willing to once more fight openly for Rome, its People, and its Gods.”


Those were not mere words of circumstance, of welcome and friendship. Vibius wanted to remind the freshly appointed Patres Familiae of the real reason why they, and not others, were standing in that hall, on that day. They were not always the eldest members of their Houses, some having only doubtful claims to their ancient, Patrician, names. But they held the right names nonetheless, and had been willing to accept the Roman Gods as their own, renouncing the Christ.


The Empire was once more in Rome, but it held the city by force, and needed all the recognition and legitimization it could receive. From both the western usurpers and it’s own people. Vibius needed to show the world that his was not the Byzantine Empire of the Greeks, as the Carolingians called it, but the one and only Roman State. The support of men carrying the names of those that had made Rome into what it was helped him immensely. But that was not all.


“Once, the Gentes were much more numerous.” Lartius gazed at his companions. “Iulius, Valerius, Fabius, Flavius, Menenius, Horatius, Iunius, Claudius, Galerius, Aemilius and Lartius. We are the last to still carry proudly the names of our ancestors. Of the men that built Rome. The last to deserve those names. Now that the Urbs is back under Roman law, now that Romans once more rule Rome, we must look to its Empire. Much has been done, but much is left to do. Much Roman land has been retaken from the hands of barbarians, many people have been brought under our laws, under the protection of Rome, and given the peace and order that can only be enjoyed in the shadow of the Eagle. Yet we now stand on the brink of a precipice. It is up to us whether we will fall into oblivion or take flight and reach the skies! And I know not about you, but I already start to feel the weight of wings sprouting on my back.”


The Patricians cheered, Aemilius clapped his hands, Valerius laughed heartily. Vibius smiled. They might have been the new figureheads of the Roman State, but, in the end, they were but young men. The last scions of great and ancient families, hungry for glory and privilege, in the times of Cicero and Caesar most of them would not even have been considered old enough to take part in political matters. And yet there they were: bold, cheerful, more than willing to cast aside the crucifixes their mothers had passed onto them. To follow Gods that promised them not eternal peace in death, but a life worth living, victory on the battlefield and in the bedchamber, riches untold, and a chance to make their fame immortal.


Only Aulus Iulius was composed in his cheerfulness, smiling approvingly but maintaining a dignified silence. He was the oldest man in the room, a few years older than Vibius himself. Unlike the others, he had not been born Orazio or Flavio, his family having kept the traditions of their ancestors close to heart, much like the Lartii. After all, in a time in which the name of Caesar was considered the highest possible honor a man could ever hope to bear, his kin were right to be proud of their ancestry. The golden age of Gens Iulia was long past, and yet looking at Aulus one would never have guessed it. Austere, noble, reserved, he had taken up the habit of keeping his hair long and loosely cut in Constantinople, but otherwise looked like an ancient bronze statue come to life. Vibius had known him from youth, and loved him like a brother.


“We must not rest on our laurels!” Vibius spoke once more. “Because make no mistake, brothers, we are making history, and we are not allowed any missteps. It is not the first time, since the fall of the Western Empire, that the Eternal City is back under Roman law. We must not make the same errors we made in the past. We must stay strong! Both when facing our enemies, and when keeping our own people safe. Which brings me to the reason I summoned you here today. I might be Imperator, but I will not be able to keep the State strong on my own. I need not generals, nor fighters. I need statesmen. I need you! To stand at my side, and, together, lead Rome to new heights! So are you with me? ARE YOU WITH ME?”


His words would have echoed against the Basilica’s high ceilings, had they not been drowned by the shouts of approval of his companions. There they were. The True Romans. Not stoic nor composed, but Roman.


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“I love her, Aulus, I do.” Aulus Iulius had no need to ask Vibius whom he was speaking about. The Imperator had fallen head over heals for Romylia, and even though he tried his best to be discreet about their relationship, over three years had passed since he had convinced her to join him in Rome, and there were few at the Imperial court that did not know of Vibius’s paramour. But she was a woman of low birth, the daughter of some Athenian soldier, and he was the heir of the Caesars, promised in marriage to the young daughter of the Kazarian Khan. Thus nothing had ever come of their love. Nothing, if not a child.


“I am happy for you, Vibius. She is a stunning woman.” Aulus smiled warmly as he rode with his friend through the streets of Rome, the other Patricians having already left their company to join the crowd that was forming in Trajan’s Forum, where people were already anxiously waiting for their Imperator. Thus the two friends rode through the Capital's stone paved roads, one of the few monuments of antiquity that hadn't been looted irreparably in the years that followed Romulus Augustulus’s abdication. The City's state of disrepair was the main reason that had brought Vibius to summon the Rome’s citizens not to the Roman Forum, where men were working day and night to restore the symbol of State back to its ancient glory, but to the Basilica Ulpia on Trajan’s Forum, a building Christianity had once made its own, and kept safe from looters, raiders and invaders.


“Would that it were but that!” Vibius sighed. “The world is full of stunning women. I love her Aulus. Cupid has pierced my heart with his arrow, and never a sweeter pain there has been.”

“How could there be!” Aulus laughed. “Love is a gift from the Gods!”

“And yet sometimes it feels like a curse.” Lartius shook his head. “But enough of that! I did not ask you at my side to speak of my problems, but of the State's.”

“The State has problems, Vibius?”

“Many of them, Aulus.” the Imperator laughed grimly. “As I said, I need good men to help me face them. Our families have always been close. My great-grandmother was a Iulia, and my uncle carries your family's name as his own, in memory of that bond.”

“Awfully sentimental of you, oh Imperator.” Aulus snorted, only slightly embarrassed.

“Don't interrupt me, Iulius, this is important.” Vibius had never called his friend by his family name. “I have already made Valerius privy to this information, but I wanted to tell you myself. The people of Rome must be shown a semblance of normality. Law, order, peace… elections. Tomorrow I shall be the last Imperator ever to name the Consuls. After they resign, the next Consuls shall be chosen by the citizens of Rome.”

He paused, took a deep breath, and looked into his friend's eyes.

“But for last Consuls appointed by Caesar, their names shall be Iulius and Valerius, and they shall be Consules ad vitam.”


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Vibius’s heart missed a beat as he stepped into the Basilica. His Varangian escort had remained outside, standing immobile, in their foreign looking armor, below the marble figures of conquered Dacians. The Impetator walked into the ancient building accompanied only by a retinue of Praetorians, fearsome in their burnished steel cuirasses. He himself looked grandiose, but his figure would have seemed that of a pauper if compared to that of his Eastern predecessors. He wore no jewelled crown, no imperial diadem, only a wreath of golden laurel. He was garbed not with long embroidered robes, but a short, sober tunic. His only piece of jewelry was a golden brooch that held his toga in place. He walked amidst the people as a servant of the State, not as it's Lord, silently repeating the promise his uncle Iulius Lartius Rufus had made when he had assumed the throne in Constantinople: to govern but not rule, to put an end to the Basileia and restore the Imperium Rei Publicae.


“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!” Vibius began after taking his place in the Basilica’s northern abse.

He stood where once a Christian priest would have stood, to preach to his flock about the virtues of saints. The Imperator was not preaching to a flock of faithful however, rather he was addressing a pride of Romans, and the virtues of Christian martyrs where the last thing on his mind. Behind him, on a standard of ruby red cloth, flew the golden Eagle of Jupiter, one headed and encircled in a crown of laurel leaves. There, at last, facing the people of Rome, Vibius felt at ease. The knot in his throat eased up, his panicked heart started to slow down its rhythm. When he had stepped into the Basilica he had feared his wit would fail him, but now he knew he was doing the will of the Gods, and it felt to him as if they were watching him from their blessed dwellings.


“After the recovery that some would call miraculous of territory lost centuries ago, the Roman Empire has been reborn! Our world has endured dark times since the Imperial borders were stormed by barbarians that, province after province, burned with their touch all that we had built. But now a bright new age has dawned for civilization. For Roman civilization!”

“The Roman State will no longer be referred to as “Empire of the Greeks” by jealous pretenders in the West, but recognised as the one true heir of the legacy of Rome. Our legacy is restored to us, but much work remains to be done. There is still territory to recover and ancient borders to reclaim, and to that end I swear to dedicate my life! For the Senate and the People of Rome!”


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A smile crept upon Romylia’s lips as her Imperator stepped away from the apse and walked towards her, amongst the cheering crowds that saw in him Rome’s new hope. But for her, he had never been that. Never had she looked at him and seen the victorious general, or the cunning statesman. From the first day they had met, he had shown herself to her only as a young pretender, madly in love.


She still remembered their first meeting as if it had happened but the day before. He had been walking through the streets of Athens, taking some time to explore the city after his first official visit to the local Legatus Augusti, the scion of House Sarantapechos, having only but recently stepped into the shoes of his uncle. She was visiting the markets on account of her ailing father, who was confined to bed by his sickness and unable to purchase what he needed for himself. The first time their eyes had met, she had averted her gaze, certain he would simply move on, not wasting his time of day on her. Looking up again, she had found him still there, looking at her intently, a sweet smile on his face. Thus had their story begun. Thrice she had rejected him, confident that he was but another bored nobleman looking for a woman to use and then discard as soon as he was done. Each time he had not complained, had not demanded, had not insisted. The fourth time he had approached her, near a little stream, away from prying eyes, she had not refused him.


“I love you.” Vibius took her hands in his, stopping in the middle the Basilica’s crowd. She blushed. He had never kept their relation secret, but neither had he made a public show of it. He was, after all, a man spoken for, and she could hope to be nothing more than his paramour.

“I want to marry you, Romylia.” he went in to kiss her. She stopped him, anger rising up inside her.

“Don’t say that! Don’t you dare deceive me that way!”

He shook his head, not taking his eyes away from hers. “I would not dare.”

He smiled, and her heart began to pound in her chest. But she stared at him coolly. She would not believe him, could not believe him. He sighed.

“My father was born out of wedlock, and I have heard the tales of Avitus and Aaliyah. Of their cursed love, willed by the Gods, but not by men. I do not want that to be our fate. I love you, with all my heart, and I will not let anyone stop me from being with you. If you will have me, I would marry you Romylia. It is no deceit.”

“I would have you.” a tear ran down her face, but if felt sweet as the Gods’ own nectar. He embraced her, taking her into his arms with the kindness only a lover can show.


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Iulius Lartius would remember that day well, as one of the happiest days of his life. He was sitting in the garden of his aprutian villa, in what had once been the center of Lartian power. Now the estate had been demilitarized, and through its halls stepped no longer fearsome commanders and armored soldiers, but old friends and beloved servants. It had been a long time since Iulius had taken up a sword, and he was perfectly happy with the state of things, preferring instead a quill in his hand, as he penned down his “Res Gestae Gentis Lartiae”.


He tried to keep himself as far as possible from war and politics, and his son Lucius had at times complained that it showed in his works, which contained too few details about military maneuvers for the youth’s tastes. “If I write of the peace that came afterwards, I have said all I needed about the war that preceded it.” he had answered, but that was but a half truth. The more he grew older, the more old memories would come to trouble his sleep. At times he wished he could simply forget, wash away the bloody images of his early days. He tried to focus on the glorious parts of his wars, on the heroic cavalry charges and the standards fluttering in the wind. Yet what he saw, as he closed his eyes, were maimed soldiers shouting in pain, men that he had once loved as brothers sprawling onto the ground.


Gallienus stepped into the garden just as Iulius was laying down his quill, the words “Roma Invicta” still fresh on the parchment. Bitter memories notwithstanding, his old warcry still brought a smile to his face.


“Gallienus! Come my friend, sit!”

“I would Rufus, but there is something you should see.”

Iulius would have frowned, but whenever Gallienus called him with his cognomen, he could never hold back a chuckle. “The Red Haired” seemed a very unfitting name now, when his head was crowned only in steel grey.

“Very well, show me then.”


Gallienus guided his master towards the villa’s outer doors, a wide smile painted on his face. Iulius followed meekly, trying to guess what was so important. As he reached the gates, a seaward breeze making it’s way into his tunic, giving him a moment of respite from what was promising to be a very warm summer, he understood. A column of soldiers was riding towards the estate, half of them garbed in burnished plated armor, the other half carrying great northmen’s axes. At the head of column, below the golden Roman eagle, rode his nephew Vibius, as always despising both the litter and the carriage.


“Caesar.” Iulius bowed his head as Vibius dismounted, handing Gallienus the reins of his horse.

“Uncle.” Vibius did not smile. “I come to you in dire times. Rome has need of you once more.”

Iulius looked at his nephew, mouth agape. He had made Vibius promise, on the day in which he had entrusted him with Rome’s fate, made his nephew promise to allow him peace and calm in the countryside.

The Imperator tried to keep a facade of seriousness, but could not, and burst laughing.

“Now, now, uncle, do not make that face.”

“So you are laughing at my expenses now? You ungrateful little…” Iulius shook his head, but did not manage to hide a smile.

“I missed you uncle.” Vibius hugged the man tightly. “But I was not entirely lying. Rome would have you rest, but I have need of you.”

“What for?” Iulius took his nephew’s shoulders and stared him in the eyes.

“To serve as an auspex. For me and Romylia.”


Iulius opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out of it. Instead, a wide smile slowly formed on his face, as the Imperator of all Romans blushed slightly.



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Author's Notes: Chapter X! I'm trying a new way of organizing the paragraphs, to make reading easier, especially in dialogues. Be sure to tell me if it is the case, as I'm considering retrofitting older chapters.

Now, I have a bit of explaining to do. Like, what was all that stuff about Consuls? Well, that is a "game mechanic" I have introduced myself, in the shape of a new rule for the AAR. All land in the Italian peninsula, besides the Imperator's own demesnes, has been divided between two kingdom sized merchant republics (k_sicily and k_italy). The ten young men Vibius addressed are the ten patrician families (five per republic). As of now, the two Consuls will sit on the council, occupying the two Advisor positions. Just a little bit of flavor, but we'll see what happens with it.

Of course, the main event of the chapter was the Restoration of the Roman Empire. I kept most of Vibius's speech faithful to the in-game event's text. I like the LoR events in general, and they are pretty well written, so I saw no reason why I shouldn't include it.

At first I wanted to end the chapter with Vibius's proposal to his lover of four years, but I chose to allow Iulius to get the spotlight once more for a while. He is now grey haired, content with his lot in life, and relations with his wife have slightly improved (still rivals, but they have the "in love" modifier so..... a normal marriage?). Lucius's critic was aimed more at myself than at his father (I have indeed skipped most of the Italian AND North African campaigns) and I will try to go more in depth with Vibius's adventures.

Now that the Imperator's best friend is of House Iulia, and thus called Iulius, I'll have to do my best to differentiate between him and Iulius Lartius, but that's that. I'll post maps as soon as I open the game again, I swear!
 
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