A Midnight Meeting

How could he get through to the boy? He had faced the horrors of war all his life so that they could build a life of peace together.

Gerontius rested a moment, his thoughts racing ahead of himself. He could see so much of himself in George, the energy and the will to explore and see the world for himself, the spirit of a fighter no doubt about that. This made him proud but also filled him with dread. He did not want George to witness what he had witnessed, nor to risk his life needlessly and though he had these thoughts, he knew that there was little he could do to stop him once he came of age. There was also something of his mother in him, an otherworldly aspect that made him seem a little out of place wherever he was. Not all man and not all of the Magia, a mongrel son of both worlds.

Gerontius smiled in the baking sun as he recalled meeting Polychronia for the first time. He had marched with Diocletan along the banks of the Margus against Carinus. The battle had been hard and brutal with Carinus’ forces slowly grinding them down. The battle was for the Roman Empire, East versus West. Diocletan was decisive and commanded the utter loyalty of all who served him, Carinus, the commander of the West had more troops and they were fresher but there was a dark stain on his honour and Diocletan wished to exploit it, it was his only chance. He dispatched his most loyal veteran unit, led by Gerontius to ask the aid of the mystic Magia, travellers and wandering folk possessed of strange magics. Even the might of Rome had not descended upon them, they were too few, too scattered and the consequences were the stuff of legend. Local gossip had spoken of a group of Magia that had made camp in the forest to the South and it was there that Gerontius had been sent with a chest of gold and a letter.

Gerontius was tempted to run with the gold away from the war for only a moment on the journey but his honour held out and he made his way to the Magia campsite. At midnight he approached the fire in the forest, his squad had fallen in behind him and he walked into the clearing alone. His soldier mind assessed the situation, there were at least 20 of them, some armed. He was walking to the light, they would be staring into the darkness and disadvantaged. As he made these calculations, that was the first time he saw her. She and the others turned and watched him approach, somehow they knew he was there. As he walked forward, they seemed to melt away to leave only Polychronia and her father, The Chovihano of the family.

“Greetings Gerontius of Tyre. Be welcome at our fire.”

Gerontius made the sign of protection and approached carefully. He was a man of the world and had seen and done many things but this was beyond any understanding or wisdom he had gained. They had known he was there and also his name.

“I come from Diocletan, Emperor of Rome.”

“I know why you have come and what you will ask of us.”

Gerontius was a practical man. “Will you do it?”

“We will. Bring the gold and tell your men to leave the forest. You will stay and travel with Polinda, you must keep her safe.”

Gerontius had avoided looking at the beautiful Magia woman for fear of insult but now cast his eyes directly at her. Polychronia smiled at him and he felt as if his heart would stop.

Copyright Faramond Frie © 2016

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