The Queen of Peace Pt. 1 by Aramis Zepeda

Antony’s forces had met fierce resistance from the Gauls- but despite this the Roman forces still proved to be superior in military prowess, especially after the Roman victory at Bibracte, where Sophos, King Vercingetorix’s most trusted tactician and mage was slaughtered alongside his troops. Slowly but surely, the Romans continued to move from the east into the west, further into Gallic territory, and defeat loomed closer and closer upon the Gauls, like a storm cloud thundering in the distance. Fearing for the fate of his people, King Vercingetorix was forced into a desperate search in the field of magic, for any hope in fending off the Romans a second time wouldn’t be arrive with ordinary tactics- it was clear that the Gauls wouldn’t win from military strength alone, as they did once before. He turned to rely on the knowledge of the Oracles. It was well known that the Oracles of Gaul were quick to flee from any who sought them their powers, so the King, alongside his mages and the Prince, travelled north of Gergovia to the cavern where the oracles dwelled, in hopes of ensnaring one of them just long enough to collect their aid.
The cavern was full of vegetation, and water could be heard flowing from within. Steam flowed freely from within the cavern, and the atmosphere within was dense, humid, and warm, despite the sharp winter air that reigned over the rest of the Gaul.

“Under no circumstances are you to injure them,” the King explained sternly, “the sole purpose of this visit is to acquire their services- they are not our enemy-“

He paused and stared at each of his men in turn, as if to emphasize this statement.

Argantaus stroked his orange beard (which was beginning to have streaks of white), and nodded. Tarvus, a black and white bearded man of tremendous size and strength, the largest of all the men, nodded as well. They had been with the King since Gaul’s first war against the Romans, and they had grown to have firm faith in each other, both of these mages also firmly loyal to the King.

Prince Artaius had a tendency to rest his right hand on the hilt of his sword, which he carried on the left side of his belt. He looked like his father had looked at the age of thirty, twenty or so years ago, with lengthening brown hair and beard, except his hair was tied behind him and his beard braided. Artaius looked much more polished than Vercingetorix had years ago when he first became King- he donned fine chainmail and armor made mostly of iron with a few strips of leather, and the cape and garments fit for a prince, of fine green cloth with intricate decorations sown on its borders. Vercingetorix’s rise to power had been a last minute attempt to unite the Gauls under the Roman threat that had come before, and there had been little time to engage in appearing of nobility in the savage midst of that war. Rough but sturdy, or as sturdy as they could find, was the armor of Vercingetorix then- chainmail, leather, and only a few, battle-beaten pieces of iron armor- and he had the strongest armor in most of his army, aside from these on the front and back of army, charged with creating the proper walls of protection for the rest of the Gallic army. Now, two decades later, the Gauls had had time to rebuild their cities, armies, and wealth. The King now wore armor like that of the prince, but broader as the King, and with a rich red cape and garments. His beard and hair were grey now, unlike that of the prince. The prince nodded in response to the King’s order as well.

“At most, you may hold them to keep them from fleeing, but nothing more.” They nodded in return once more, and after a moment, the signaled toward the entrance.

The King and his men formed a makeshift wall, blocking the entrance of the cavern, and then they proceeded to trod slowly into it. After a moment, a wind blew from within the cavern, and steam shifted slightly in a swirl, floating upward from the ground.

“Oracles! Present yourselves- it is I, the King of Gaul-“

There was no response from the humid obscurity within the cavern.

“I am here because I need your aid in this war. The Romans continue to cut deeper and Gallic blood continues to be shed. I desperately need your aid, or I fear I will be forced to forfeit the Gallic people into the hands of the cruel Roman tyrants.”

The air shifted once more, and the sound of small wings flapping came from the darkness. Several small birds flew from the depths of the cavern and over the men, toward the freedom outside of the cavern.

Argantaus quickly turned as the birds fled, and blew a glittering black powder from his hand toward the birds with a force than seemed slightly inhuman. The birds sped out of the cave toward the clear the sky, and for a moment it seemed the black powder had had no effect, but then the form of a woman fell from over the entrance of the cavern and onto the ground. The King and his men ran from the cavern and quickly surrounded her. She was covered in a dark green cape, and her brown hair looked as if it had not been cleaned or groomed for a long time. She groaned and shifted slightly before beginning to stand, but froze when she noticed the King and his men.

“We mean you no harm-“

She jumped to her feet and attempted to dash through Tarvus and Artaius but was held in place and turned toward the King.

“I am skeptical of seeing that as the truth- if you mean me no harm you would release me, or not have entrapped me to begin with,” she responded calmly, but with a slight tone of annoyance in her voice.

“I would not have come here if it was not a truly urgent matter- forgive me, but I truly need your help.”

The woman looked at the King and remained silent.

“My people or dying. The ones who are not killed are taken as prisoners and slaves. I need you to tell me how I can win this war.”

The woman was silent for a moment more, before growled slightly, avoiding the King’s gaze. She looked away for a moment before looking back at him.

“There’s a way. It can save your people from the Romans. But the solution will lead to a fate just as cruel if not more so.”

The King ran his hand through his beard a few times and turned from the woman, before turning back.

“No fate can be as cruel as watching my people be murdered and stolen by the Romans. If another problem will arise from the solution, we will fight it when it comes.”

“Warrior king, not everything can be defeated with a sword and shield, I’m sure you know this.”

“Please, tell me what I need to know.”

The woman was silent for a moment.

“Alright-” she pushed Tarvus and Artaius away and the King beckoned them to let her loose. “Come with me.”

She led back into the cavern, but instructed them to stay at the mouth. She walked into the shadows, and disappeared for a few moments, before reemerging carrying something in her hands.

She walked up to the King, causing Artaius to step toward them rapidly and begin to draw his blade, before the King motioned him to halt. The woman eyed Artaius annoyedly, before turning back to the King, and handing him a large crystal, large enough that she needed both hands to carry it-

“I believe he,” the woman eyes Argantaus, “will know what to do with this- now,” she continued, “can I leave without being thrown down?”

Argantaus took the crystal from the King and examined it, rotating it a few times in his hands, before looking back to the King and nodding.

“Thank you Oracle,” replied the King, “how can I repay you for your aid?”

“Don’t come back,” she said, before transforming into a bird and flying away before the anything else could be said.

They stood there a few moments, watching her fly away, before Argantaus said, “I like her. And I would love to learn how they perform the bird transformation.”

The King smiled for a moment, before turning to meet their horses once again, and rodr back to the Gergovia.

Once arriving, Argantaus took the crystal to his tower, and began extracting the knowledge it held within- knowledge in the form of magic symbols. This process took a few weeks, during which the Roman continued to march toward Gergovia, and there was a growing and widespread fear throughout Gaul. The King waited in agony for the extraction of the crystal, and crafted fire magic alongside Tarvus to protect the walls of Gergovia should the Romans arrive- which they did. The King ordered the troops in Gergovia to remain within the city walls, hoping to rely mainly on the magic he had developed with Tarvus. Any Roman soldiers approaching the walls would be met with a pillar of fire rising from the ground, and any projectiles would be obliterated by a swirling ball of flames. A few birds that flew too close were quickly roasted and sent spiraling downward. One even rolled down to the Roman camp, where it was eaten as dinner.

At the fiery obstacle, Mark Antony ordered his army to begin building walls around the city, in hopes of starving out of Gauls within. After another week, the crystal extraction was finally complete, and Argantaus had deciphered the purpose of each of the magic symbols within-

“They’re spells- blessings of sorts- which we can use to enchant our equipment. They have to be burnt into our equipment, but once the symbols are applied, we’ll have a complete advantage over the Romans. This symbol here-” Argantaus took a cloth with a symbol burnt onto it but not through it and showed it to the King- “Look at this.”

Argantaus took the cloth and set it down on a wooden table, before taking an iron axe from the wall and swinging it through the air onto the cloth and the table. Something shattered- but it wasn’t the table- it was the metal of the axe. The wooden table, and the cloth as Argantaus showed the King, were intact.

“And that’s not the only one- look, this one,” Argantaus held up a wooden knife with another symbol burnt onto it, “it can cut through iron as if it were butter. And this one-” Argantaus held up another, sharper, wooden knife with another symbol burnt onto it, and a plain metal knife, “well, I’ll show you-”
Argantaus took the metal knife and opened his hand, wincing slightly as he did so. Then he took the wooden knife, and pricked himself near the cut. His skin suddenly pulled itself together, and it was healed.

By nightfall, every soldier in Gergovia was equipped with leather armor and shields with the first symbol burned onto them, wooden swords with the second symbol burned onto them, and wooden knives with the third symbol. Tarvus used the rest of the strength he had after casting the fire protections disable them, and the doors of Gergovia opened, emitting the Gallic troops within. At first sight, the Romans laughed and taunted the Gauls for their leather armor and wooden swords, but once the two forces met and began to fight, it was clear the Romans were severely under-powered against the Gauls and their new magic. The Roman forces were decimated during that battle, as they stood no chance, and barely any managed to escape. King Vercingetorix and the people of Gergovia celebrated a victory, with no losses, but the next day news arrived that Vercingetorix had been betrayed, as the remaining Roman forces had fled to thr Bibracte stronghold of his uncle, Gobanitio, who had secretly pledged an alliance with the Roman forces, allowing Gallic troops to be slaughtered at Bibracte. Additionally, more Roman troops were making their way into Gaul. At this, the King ordered half of the troops of Gergovia to remain under the control of Argantaus, and the other half to join him, as well as Tarvus and Prince Artaius, to what would undoubtedly be victory against the Antony and the treacherous Gobanitio at Bibracte.

Vercingetorix led the way on horseback for three hours before an elderly woman stood in his way, and beckoned him to stop. The Prince snarled, angered at the disrespect she presented toward the King and his forces, but once again the King beckoned the Prince to be calm.

“Your majesty- you must turn back the way you came. A terrible fate awaits you should you choose to continue to meet your enemy at Bibracte- turn back now and this fate may still be avoided.”

“Who are you? Why do you bring me this message?”

“I am an Oracle. The gifts you have been presented will protect Gergovia, but you must not attack Bibracte.”

The King was silent for a moment, before continuing to speak.

“I see no evil that will come from attacking Bibracte. Now, as a good King, I must protect the entirety of my Kingdom, not just Gergovia, so kindly, please step aside.”

A somber expression appeared on her face, before she replied-

“I see.”

After a moment, she turned into a bird, and flew over the King and his army, which continued their march to Bibracte.

To be continued…

 

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