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Chapter 28


The Fortress of Petragia

The battle for Petragia begins – Drakonian forces harass the defenders of Petragia – The island is captured – Kronus offers life to the fortress commander – In a public scene: Rome officially surrenders – The Roman Senate takes action against their Emperor – Vespasian IV is elected the new Emperor of Rome – The Emperor of Drakonia assumes a new name: Drakonus Magnorum – Kronus is named ‘Hero of the State’ – The Regent and Seti-Kahn continue to conspire against Kronus

 

1  In the autumn of the year did the naval forces of Drakonia set sail from the great city ports of Trajenium, Livius, Appolonia, Dracus, Prisca, and Brundisium; and the mighty ships of war let slip into the ocean mists; and altogether did they quietly move towards the islands of Petragia and Londinium.

2  Now there went out to blockade Petragia, two full imperial fleets, each consisting of forty-two ships of war; but unto Londinium did there go some four fleets which would rain horror and death upon all its ports and cities;

3  Yet unto the Straits of Gibraltar did there go the wolf packs of the submarine corps; being determined and fiercely resolved to sink such ships of war as Rome might send to the aid of Londinium; for it was Londinium which the Romans thought the Drakonians would seize by force and not Petragia.

4  Now on the day when the ships of Drakonia set sail did the war planes of Drakonia swiftly fly, being intent on destroying even all the radar and communication installations upon the island of Petragia; causing that the Romans upon the fortress isle should be blind, and unable themselves to call out for aid or to give warning of any kind.

5  Thus did it come about that Petragia should be fiercely held in the grip of a naval blockade, being placed under constant bombardment day and night; while in Londinium did Caesar Othellos feel the shock and rage of sudden war.

6  And there came out to aid Londinium, three imperial fleets from Rome, and on the seas did there rage a mighty battle, for the ships of war did flash and roar against each other; and after four days did the fleets of Rome lie still and broken beneath the ocean deep.

7  For the satellites of Drakonia did swiftly fly above the earth to watch the ocean lanes, giving out a constant warning of all which Rome might do; causing that Rome itself be disadvantaged.

8  But on Petragia did the garrisons of Rome stand isolated and alone against Drakonia, and for six months did there go unto the island fortress neither food nor supplies.

9  For all the ships of Rome which lay anchored in the harbors of Petragia did the Drakonians sink first before all else; and all the war planes which were stationed on the fortress isle did Drakonia smash with swift and hateful glee.

10  And the soldiers of Rome grew gaunt and filled with hunger, being themselves weary and disheartened; and there rushed upon the whole region of Petragia, a cold and bitter wind which would itself bring forth the storms of winter.

11  Now in the fourth month of the naval blockade did Drakonia begin to harass the defenders of Petragia, trying by every means to rob the soldiers of Rome of rest and sleep; using with ingenious cunning a great many ploys and devices which would bedevil and distress the island fortress.

12  For in following the plans of Kronus did Drakonia drop on the island fortress many thousands of dummy soldiers, being themselves fashioned in the likeness of men, yet were they made of rubber and plastic.

13  Being each themselves armed with a chain of harmless poppers, which very thing caused that the defenders of Petragia should think themselves invaded and under fierce attack.

14  And in the dead of night did the guns of the ships roar against the island fortress, and in the airs above the fortress would there burst forth a thousand flares, and through the glooming light would there parachute the dummy soldiers of Drakonia.

15  Seeing, therefore, all these things which fell upon them, the soldiers of Rome did rouse themselves to fierce resistance, firing upon the dummy soldiers a hot and withering fire; and there fell into death a great many defenders, being themselves cut down by the crossfire of those which fought beside them.

16  And in the morning light did the soldiers of Rome go out on to the battlefield, believing all the while that they had fought some fierce engagement; and finding only the dummy soldiers of Drakonia, they cursed and fumed because of it; for in the battle had they spent a great amount of ammunition for which they had no replacement.

17  By such means did Drakonia harass continually the defenders of Petragia both day and night; and on a certain day, when there would soon fall upon the island fortress, a great and howling tempest, there seemed to break loose from its moorings, one of the barges of Drakonia filled with food and drink.

18  And seeing that the barge would drift to shore, the Drakonians did reach forth to retrieve it; but the soldiers of Rome, seeing the barge drifting towards them, even they did fiercely fire upon the Drakonians, causing that the Drakonians should withdraw themselves or perish.

19  And the defenders of Petragia did seize the barge, and going into its many compartments, they found an abundance of food and wine and costly port; and there went up over all the isle a great hurrah.

20  Thus did it come about that before the coming of the great storm, there fell into the hands of Rome an abundance of food; and rushing forth they did carry it all away, to feed to the defenders of Petragia.

21  Yet was the food and drink most subtly laced with a drug of slow effect; causing that if a man should eat or drink of it, he would feel only a great euphoria; but after several days of eating and drinking, there would well up within the flesh, a deep weariness filled with peaceful sleep.

22  Now there fell upon the island of Petragia, a cold and bitter storm, and the soldiers of Rome did huddle together at their several posts and in the barracks, believing themselves safe in the midst of so great a gale; and in their flesh did the drug of food and drink induce all men to doze and quietly slumber.

23  And there walked out of the storm a tribune of Rome wearing a cloak which bore upon its surface the seal of Commodus and the Senate together; and going to the office of the fortress commander, he demanded of the guards to be let in; for he carried upon his person an imperial command.

24  And going in, the tribune found the commander in a groggy and weary state; and the commander, seeing the imperial tribune of his Emperor standing before him, was astonished and he spoke in a rush, saying:

25  “How came you forth through the great blockade? Have the Drakonians fled themselves away? How came you forth to the island fortress in the midst of so great a storm? Has Rome itself come to our deliverance?”

26  But the tribune spoke not a word, but gazed with steady eyes; and handing forth an imperial order, the tribune watched as the commander read; and with a sudden start the commander spoke, saying:

27  “What is this? For this comes not from Commodus, but from the Emperor Drakonus instead.” And immediately the tribune let drop the cloak from off his shoulders; and there stood in the imperial uniform of Drakonia, the man Kronus Maximillius, and in his hand was there seen a gun made of gold and heavily engraved.

28  And the commander seeing this did jump with sudden fear; calling out with heated breath, saying: “Guards! Guards! The enemy is upon us!” But there rushed into the room no guards to save him, but only the soldiers of Drakonia fully armed.

29  And Kronus spoke unto the fortress Commander, saying: “Your guards are captured, your island taken; all that remains, my lord, is the disposition of your forces. For this cause would I offer you life or death; yet is it for you alone to choose.”

30  Now when the commander heard this, he shook with fear, for he was a cruel and bullying man in the midst of all his power; but when the rule of power was stripped from him, then was he made fearful and filled with tremblings; and he spoke to Kronus, saying:

31  “Would you offer me life by sending me to Rome? For if this fortress isle be taken, then shall I be crucified with all my officers together upon the walls of Rome itself. For Commodus is a harsh and vengeful man, and he will take no delight in seeing me. How then will you offer me life?”

32  But Kronus smiled, saying: “Come, come, brave fellow, we are but warriors together. Why then should you not join with us seeing that we are but cousins already? For in ages past were Rome and Drakonia made as one together, being bound together by language and custom.

33  Come then and join your force to mine and we shall live together as good companions, to serve most bravely the empire of Drakonia. For we seek not your death as Commodus would, but rather would we have your fair allegiance.”

34  And hearing this the fortress commander sighed, being heavy wrought with fear and shame, and he spoke, saying: “What then will you have me do that I might live?” Then did Kronus explain to him the things which he must do.

35  Now when all these things were completed, Kronus did call out to the ships at sea, saying: “The island fortress is taken, Petragia is fallen to Drakonia.” But the admirals of the fleet would not believe, thinking it a ruse instead.

36  And for two days did Kronus send out the self same message; but on the third day, when the storm had abated, there was seen flying over the fortress island the standard of Drakonia; and all the admirals were astonished, and going unto the island themselves, they found Kronus in command.

37  Thus did Kronus cause to come ashore, the landing forces of Drakonia, being finely dressed as if for parade and not for war, and each unit did hold high the colored standards of the empire, as well as that of their own command; and throughout the landing were all things recorded on film by the Office of Truth and Propaganda.

38  And in a large and spacious field did Kronus gather the forces of Rome and Drakonia together in solemn ceremony; and there before the TV cameras and film crews did Rome surrender unto Drakonia, the island fortress of Petragia.

39  Yet did the cunning of Kronus go still further, for when the standards of Rome were lowered, then did the Romans themselves lift high the standards of Drakonia in the midst of all their many ranks.

40  And each side did together meet in the center of the field, both Romans and Drakonians, and did together laugh and shake hands as though they were as good companions and pleasing fellows.

41  Thus did Drakonia seize from Rome the island fortress, and on the day of surrender did the fleets of Drakonia withdraw themselves from Londinium and did instead redeploy along the coast of Petragia, and along the swiftest sea lanes of the Atlantic where they might have strategic advantage against the retaliations of Rome.

42  But in Trajenium did Drakonus Maximillius leap for joy at so great a feat; for he had accomplished what no other emperor himself could do; and calling forth his councilors he set forth the plans for a great celebration.

43  And throughout the empire did the news go forth, and every man, from the lowest and meanest slave, to the greatest of noble Lords and Caesars, even they did watch the surrender of Petragia with wonder and amazement.

44  For the men of power knew full well the riches of the North Atlantic, and how there would flow unto Drakonia, an abundance of natural resources; causing that of all the empires on the earth, Drakonia should stand alone as undisputed, being itself the greatest empire of all.

45  Yet in Rome was there heard the rending of garments and the howlings of rage and madness; for the men of power were deeply grieved against the Emperor, believing him foolish and unworthy in the wearing of the purple.

46  And Commodus, fearing for his life, did rage against the commanders of all his military forces; accusing them blindly of treason and treachery against the state; and when he gave forth the command that all his generals and admirals be purged, then did the Senate swiftly act.

47  And in a request most solemn and pleasing, they petitioned that Commodus should come and soothe away their many fears; and going into the Senate Chamber, Commodus was murdered before the whole house; and each Senator did come upon the fallen Commodus, and did himself kick against him and cast upon him all their scorn.

48  Then did they together elect Vespasian IV to be their Emperor; and placing him upon the throne he did promise to regain the empire’s wealth and prestige altogether, and to cast into death itself, the man Kronus Maximillius.

49  Now there gathered in Trajenium, the powers of the empire; for the Emperor had set forth a great festival, for he desired to celebrate the capture of Petragia and to honor the man Kronus; and there went out a decree that all should rejoice.

50  For the Emperor did proclaim for himself a new name which none would mock, being called Drakonus Magnorum, and he announced before the whole empire, the building of a new capital city which would be called Maxus Emperium.

51  Thus did there gather in celebration, the Caesars, kings, governors, and all other rulers and ministers within the state; and in the palace quad did they assemble in bright and festive mood; and there was in attendance some ten thousand men of power.

52  And standing before the whole assembly, the Emperor spoke, saying: “Men of power, hear my words, for this day shall I honor the man Kronus Maximillius; for in the art and science of war has he proven himself the greatest of all.

53  For this man you know full well already, for in his youth did he take from my hand three gold standards in the playing of the Game; and did himself withstand with cunning force, the great Ahgi Wynnaki.

54  And not this only, for by his word did we seize from Rome up to one half of all their wealth; yet to this would he add still further the capture of Petragia; which thing caused that Rome itself should strike down in rage, the Emperor Commodus to replace him with another.

55  What then shall I do for so great a man as this Kronus has become? By what means shall we, the empire, honor him? For in Kronus have we delighted ourselves in watching these many years.”

56  Then did there erupt a great commotion, and the rulers of the empire did stomp their feet and clap their hands, and with their voices did shout forth their approval; and the Emperor raised his hand to speak, and there fell suddenly a great hush filled with expectation.

57  And the Emperor spoke in solemn words, saying: “Men of the nation, hear me, for by imperial decree would I honor this Kronus Maximillius, for by his deeds are we, the empire, benefited.

58  Let then the word go forth, for on this day shall I, Emperor Drakonus Magnorum, proclaim before the nation that this Kronus Maximillius shall forever be, the Hero of the State.”

59  Now when the men of power heard so great a proclamation, they were themselves shocked with disbelief; for according to the customs of the empire, even the greatest of warriors could not be so honored till five years after their death.

60  Yet was Kronus proclaimed by the Emperor while yet he lived; to stand before the eyes of all men as the Hero of the State; and those which heard did shout forth a great hurrah.

61  Now there followed the great proclamation, a great feast which did continue for three days; and every man made merry, for throughout the empire were even the lowest of slaves given gifts of food and gold.

62  And Kronus returned himself home again to lay in peace beside his sweet Beloved; and Yoshibeth did tender unto Kronus every affection and soft endearment; pressing upon him the softness of her kiss and flesh together.

63  But in the shadows of power did the Regent conspire, and Seti-Kahn sent a secret word unto Rome itself, being willing himself with others, to betray Kronus into the very hands of Vespasian IV.

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