Eric had sat there that night staring at the low burning fire, fists clenched in his lap, his face tightly held against showing his rage while Artorius spoke in a quiet and equally controlled tone. The two had become unlikely friends over the past few months of Eric’s confinement. There was a shared respect between them even if they were on opposing sides in some ways.
This night, Artorius had much to share with the young man besides the grim details of his family. He knew that Eric must know of what he faced on his return to that highland place he called home and he knew too that Eric would feel compelled to seek out his own vengeance, a feat that could well cost him and those he cared about, their lives.
Artorius had to convince the young man not go this route alone, and not to fill his soul with bitter hatred that would eat at him for eternity. “Your uncle is filled now with the blind rage of bloodlust against all he deems his enemies. Rather than seek honorable justice and vengeance, he will seek bloody revenge against all who come near him. In the state he is in now, he will destroy even his own in that blinding rage. Your lands will run red with the blood of your own by the time he is finished because he can see the difference any longer.” Artorius shook his head sadly and stared at Eric waiting for his nod of painful understanding before going on. “You must return to your lands and see those survivors safely away from him and your home for now. Your uncle must be left to his own until he can face this and see more clearly through the pain and the blood running over his eyes who the true enemy is.”
Artorius stood and paced the small dimly lit room. He was filled with his own rage and grief over the current situation. Rage at his so called countrymen and comrades, grief over what was happening to so many who only sought to defend their lands and their lives. The Romans were growing desperate in their attempts to conquer new territories and hold on to their claims of power over all of the lands. When men grew desperate, they forgot about honor and justice. He stopped his pacing and stood behind Eric, who had said nothing as yet, just continued to stare into the fire. Artorius watched him closely and saw his body tremble in the attempt to control his emotions. As Eric stared, the fire grew brighter, fed by the deepest of the rage that he tried to dismiss from his mind.
It became a balancing act for Artorius, his mind wrapping around those flames to contain the fire within the pit and within Eric’s soul. There was an electric silence as he allowed Eric’s release into the fire while keeping the inferno to a limit that would not consume them. He knew that this was the only release available to Eric right now and he must use it, but as Eric was as yet unskilled in this release. It was up to Artorius to guide him through it.
Finally, after some time, the fire returned to a manageable slower burn of it’s own making and Eric sat now with his head buried in his hands. Artorius touched his shoulders from behind as he spoke. “I will send a well skilled legion of Vampyres with you who will know of how to contain Svein and reach his soul to heal him. You will not interfere with it… it will not be pleasant for anyone and it could take some length of time. You will gather those left and move them away to safer ground away from the place for now. The ghosts and the pain must be cleared away first before it is livable again.”
He paused for some moments, feeling the tremors of Eric’s body as the man still struggled with the depths of pain in his soul. “I will see to finding your sisters and your cousin. I will seek the retribution and the vengeance for you my friend, for I know better how to accomplish it than you within this system of snakes. You will leave this to me, as a payment of debt owed to your family for actions of those Romans who have no honor.” Artorius shook his head and uttered oaths of disgust at what their legions had become.
He sat again close to Eric with a hand firmly placed on his shoulder. “We must speak of something else this night as well. This is of grave importance to all of your people.” He had then shared with Eric the plans of the Roman command to retreat fully from this land of Barbarians as they termed it. The Romans would soon leave this soil the chaos of tribes and clans who would fight amongst themselves for control of it. Artorius explained that the Romans were feeling the strains of having pushed their limits and their reaches too far. They were coming under attack from numerous fronts by any number of what they considered Barbarian attacks and they could not defend themselves against all of those fronts. Artorius shared another thought about the Roman retreat. There were many of the Romans who feared this place, said it was beyond Barbarian and it reeked of some untold and unknown mysterious magic that could not be won against.
Artorius laughed somewhat bitterly at that… The Romans were leaving in fear of the mysteries, of the powers and the ancients who were even more powerful than in some ways than any Roman Legion. The Romans feared the Fairie Realm! They feared not the Vampyres or even the witches, but for some reason, they feared the quiet, ancient Fairies and the lands they came from. Eric had looked up at Artorius in some shock and disbelief at this admission. It made little sense to him, the greatest of powers retreating in fear of one of the most peacable and un-warlike groups there ever was? His waves of rage and grief were for a time set aside by the ironic humor he saw in this event. The bloodiest army there was, beaten by the merest thought of Fairies! He started to laugh and could not stop at this astonishing, rather ridiculous idea!
Artorius had joined with him in the laughing for some time until they both wiped tears from their eyes. He had to catch his breath before returning to the more serious matters at hand. He told Eric that it would not necessarily be a peaceful or graceful exit by any means. Just because they were retreating did not mean that they would not show their strength upon that leaving. There would be a great deal more bloodshed and they were determined to deplete and destroy as much of the land and the peoples on their way out, to ensure that there would be no chance of anyone rising up against them from this front.
Artorius’ plan was to stay in this land. He had decided to remain here rather than continue with the Romans. There were others like him, of the same thought and mind. They would rather risk their lives in this new place than return to what they knew was a losing cause and battle with the Roman Empire. He and some of his men would make their new lives here and offer their abilities to those clans and tribes in this land.
As Artorius spoke of his plans, he paced the room with his sword in hand. He found some peace and comfort in having it in his hand. It was as much a part of him as a limb, having learned to use it from the earliest childhood that he could remember.
Eric watched his every move with the long sword. Occasionally, he would shift his glance and his thoughts to the Sword that hung on the wall over the fire as well as the one that laid upon the table in front of him. He knew not how to handle these weapons, had never seen them before the battles with the Romans. His one thought was of the Romans had so easily conquered his Clan, left them slain on the field with these weapons. Eric’s army, such as it was, had been armed with short knives, heavy axes, clubs, or whatever else they had been able to find to defend themselves with. It was with such as the swords, the horses, the disciplined training, that battles would be won and Eric well understood that.
He watched Artorius and listened intently to his plans. Artorius was offering this training, and these weapons to Eric and his people, what was left of them anyway. Should the Romans decide to return, or when the next invaders arrived, and Arturius assured him that yes, there would be others who would make the journey and the attempts to conquer, his people needed to be ready and prepared to better defend themselves and their lands.
It was on that long night that Eric stepped away from his Clan temporarily to become a willing student and later, a comrade in arms to Artorius. He returned to his home on the isle of Skuy only shortly, to gather those survivors and see them safe for the time being from Romans and from Svein’s blood rage. His small group of people took refuge in the forested Fairie lands, protected by rings and veils of deceptive mists and rock formations filled with the most ancient magic of the Fairies. They would return to Dunvegan when the Vampyre guards pronounced it was safe for them to do so. Eric had visited the place and what remained of his Uncle Svein… Svein at that time was so filled with the blood rage that he recognized no one, not even Eric. He saw every living thing as enemy to be set upon and destroyed. The guards placed with him were of the strongest and the fiercest rank of Vampyre and even they felt the need to chain Svein to the wall in the deepest part of the underground until such a time as they could control him. There was nothing left of his reasoning or his mind. The guards had advised Eric that possibly, those parts of him might never return. Should that be the case, they would have to take measures to put him out of his tortured existence. Eric sadly agreed with them and left the place with directions to keep him advised of the situation.
There was little else that Eric could do. He could do nothing for Svein, and he could not protect his people or his family, should they be found, without what Artorius could offer to him. So, he cleared his mind and his thoughts to start a new life as a Roman Guard. He knew that he would not be one for long, so he did not look on it too greviously. No, he focused his thoughts on the future afterwards… and he tried not to think of his sisters, or his cousin who were Gods knew where, in those Roman hands. With the aid of Artorius, Eric managed to control his own blood rage and put it towards other uses, such as learning to fight with those swords.
Artorius was doubtful at first that Eric, or any of the other men would succeed much less excell in the lessons of Sword and horse fighting combat. They were skills that most men learned from the cradle. But, these men, and even some of the women had something that many well trained warriors lacked… they had reason, and a inner burning rage that carried them on. These earliest of Celtic Warriors had an inborn courage and pride that he did not often see even in the most well trained Roman Legions. They were survivors and what they lacked in skill, they made up for in sheer spirit and determination. As Artorius trained Eric, he thought it well wise of the Romans to retreat as they were planning to, for once these people came together as one, they would be a force not easily stopped. His other deeper thought for the future was what would happen when they turned on each other, as societies so often did. Who would survive that and what then would become of this land? He could not answer that, he did not know but he prayed to the Gods that the one he followed would make a difference.