It was hard to believe that over a thousand years hence, the place where six Roman soldiers found themselves stuck in mud trapped by a large bear, would eventually become a large Tescos site just off the M6 near Carlisle………..
‘Excuse me, you can’t park there, it’s a parent and child spot…….!!’
‘Oh my God………OH MY GOD……OH MYYYY GOD’
‘What is it?’
‘Someone’s nicked me kids…..!’
‘But……..you only just drove in to the space’
‘Oh well, must have left them at home…..now piss off!’
Back in 82AD, Tirious Fearsus, Lactos Tolrant and the others stared at the bear.
‘Well, I think it’s come to that time my friends…..’
‘What time is that Tirious?’
‘The time Romulus, when one of us has to take one for the team…’
‘What do you mean ‘take one for the team?’
‘As in the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ (see that didn’t appear first in Star Trek…Spock stole it from Tirious Fearsus 🙂 )
Sam wriggled uncomfortably in the mud. Not only because he could see where this was going, he was also uncomfortable from having spent eight hours stuck in a bog with a large bear waiting to eat him. It also annoyed him immensely, that, despite being from a fine Roman family, instead of Romulus Romulus or Sunnius Tannas or even Tirious Fearsus, his lazy parents had called him Sam. Not Sammius Sammus or Sambuko Sampdoria, just Sam.
‘So, in that last sentence ‘needs of the few’, who’s the few?’
‘Well Sam, life teaches us many things. Things like ‘women and children first’ and ‘tomatoes didn’t exist in 84AD’. Unfortunately, we don’t have any women and children, but you’re the closest. Therefore, I vote, you distract the bear, thus saving five of us in return for losing just one of us’
‘Run that past me again. You’re hinting that as I’m the youngest, i should make a break for it, risking my life to save you lot. What criteria are we basing this stastistical problem on?’
‘You’re the youngest, fittest, bravest, most intelligent……….and, most of all, you’re the fastest of all of us.’
‘I would also like to point out, I am the youngest….and……….and………..my Gran back in Rome thinks I’m ‘special’ ‘
‘Ok….we should have a vote….all those in favour of Sam distracting the bear while we escape, live our lives fully, eventually dying of natural causes in our forties, raise their hand………………………. ok, that’s unanimous – five votes for and one against’
‘Exsqueeze me. I might be the youngest but I’m not daft. If i tell you that it was Tirious Furious who drank the last of the red wine and tried to blame it on one of the local peasants………….how about a revote?’
‘Yooouuu stole the wine???’
‘Look, it was a momentary lapse whilst under enormous stress’
‘Enormous stress!!! It was the one and only night you had to do the cooking as Herbius was sick!’
‘Exactly……..and I’m no cook’
‘Well, we found that out 🙂 ‘
‘Okay okay……i made a mistake. One solitary mistake. Hang me for it for Caesars sake! ok we’ll have another vote. All those in favour of Sam, who ate the last of the bacon last weekend, saving our lives…….’
‘Sam……..you ate the bacon, even though you’d eaten two plates of milky oats, a trout and a slab of beef the size of Romulus’s head?’
‘okay, over some bacon i will die to save you. Tell my Mother and Father I hate them for not giving me a proper Roman name and dressing me up in girls clothes……….’
The bear growled…………
Sitting upon his black stallion he watched, hidden by foliage and the fact the Romans were too preoccupied with deciding who would be the sacrificial lamb. He lit the torch………
The Black Hawk, fiery torch in hand, pulled on the reigns and drove his hoven beast towards the bear………………
Pell was soaking wet. He’d climbed the Grey Mares Tail, and, was now traversing the narrow ledge behind the waterfall. As the falls cascaded behind him, he finally reached the cave entrance. The Elders of the village, usually while under the influence of beer, spoke of The Wise One, a magician of sorts. Legend had it, he sat in this cave conjuring monsters from pockets of air and making trinkets to sell to travellers. Pell crept foward into the darkness. There was no sign of any life here.
Dark, damp, and really really smelly. It couldn’t possibly be the home of someone so powerful and wise. Something slimey dropped from the roof onto Pells face.
Several other things happened to Pell in the dark, dreary, damp, dingy cave and, I would normally use at least another two paragraphs, nay, three, to create the atmosphere of a young warrior hunting for a Wise Man in a cave, but my dinner is ready……so….Pell reached the end of the black dark cave.
He pulled a bag of sprokle* from his pocket…….
sprokle* a fungus which glows in the dark
As his eyes adjusted to the sprokle’s glow, he could now see the cave was much larger than he’d thought. Stalagtites, stalagmites, little weird beetles, relatives of the sprokle he held in his hand and……..
………and………someone in the cave right beside him………
‘It’s ok Pell, it’s me!’
‘Arla, in Estrella the Night God’s* name!’
*Estrella the Night God – made that up. I don’t know who they would have worshipped at the time, and, Jesus, who had just been nobbled by the Romans, they might not have known about mainly due to the slowness of the world wide web in 82AD.
‘You followed me……I told you to stay at Hightops and watch for Lyan and Raich’s return’
‘They’re back safe and well. Scared the Golden Ones to death and left them stuck in a bog watched over by the biggest bear they’d ever seen :-)’
‘What was that!?’
‘What was what Pell?’
‘That rumbling noise’
Suddenly the floor beneath their feet started to vibrate…..
It was too late. The cave floor in front of them disappeared downwards, leaving an unjumpable chasm between them and the way out…….
Even large black bears were scared of fire and even more scared of someone riding towards them shouting ‘YAAArgghhh’. It growled and ambled off into the woods.
‘…..and so, who do we have here?’
‘Thank you for saving us, we’ve been stuck here for hours…..’
‘You’re not saved yet….I leave…..the bear comes back…..you get my drift’
‘But that would be really evil’
Hissing was The Black Hawks speciality. He was also a natural at evil guffawing and laughing sarcastically.
‘Yessssssssss, it would be particularly evil. I am not called The Black Hawk for nothing’
‘Is it because of that long crooked beak of yours??’
‘NO, you fools, it’s because I am EVIL and mainly because of the black hawk that’s sitting upon my shoulder!’
‘but, there’s nothing sitting on your shoulder’
‘Shoosh Sam! You’ll have us killed’
‘He must have snuck off for something to eat. Let’s hope he finds something or he may return and choose something else for his main course. He particularly likes Roman eyessssssss’
The bogged down Romans looked at each other. Their ‘saviour’ was turning out to be worse than the bear.
‘Who are you and where are you headed?’
‘We are Roman soldiers from the Fort of Lugulavio. We are on a mission north to engage the Celtic savages’
‘…and dessspite having weapons, armour and six of you….you managed to let a single bear beat you’
‘Well, it was a BIG bear and there were other things going on at the time’
‘Well, fiery things, ghouls, ghosts and devils in the trees…..’
‘Devilssss in the treessss you say’
‘Yes…..north of here there are forests containing demons, monsters and magic’
‘Are there now…..jusssst the very thing I’m looking for…..I will help you out…..provided you give me two gold Roman coins each’
‘TWO coins each…but…..!’
‘I hear the bear……..’
Just then a black hawk landed on The Black Hawks shoulder. He drew a snearing smile’
Within seconds a small bag landed in front of The Black Hawks stallion. He threw them a rope and within a few minutes some rather muddy Romans stood befuddled as to what to do next.
‘Do not thank me. I am unthankable. I gathered your horses. I may have a use for you Romansssss’
The Black Hawk knew that hissing and adding extra hissing esses to words was a stereotypically evil character thing to do, but it worked. He’s tried using extra d’s when using the word ‘dead’ but it didn’t work as well. He’d stick to esses for now.
‘Ssssso, your plan was to travel north, engage these Celts in the Magic Forest of Demons, and, I presssummme, kill them?’
‘Well…….our General….Claudius Nimbus…’
‘Not….thee Claudius Nimbus, who attacked his own Roman Army after his legion got lost in fog…. not THAT Claudius Nimbus’
‘See……even he’s heard of him!’
‘Yes. that’s him. He doesn’t believe us that there are untold horrors to the North. We have to find, capture and take back something to Lugulavio’
‘Well……I think you should continue your journey……I will be keepng an eye on you’
With that, The Black Hawk wheeled his black stallion and was off into the mist’
‘Did you notice that hawk of his had poohed on his shoulder……’ 🙂
Tirious Fearsus, for the first time that day, laughed.
‘Right, so, death awaits us if we return with nothing, possible death awaits us at the hands of monsters and demons to the North, and, we now have an evil psycho with a black hawk that’s has a penchant for Roman soldiers eyes, who’s keeping an eye on us. Oh joy. It gets better by the moinute. Let’s get a move on’
Pell and Arla stood in the sprokle light staring at the hole.
‘Great. what were the chances of that! Been sitting happily as a cave floor for thousands of years and today of all days…..it decides to disappear………………unless……’
‘Unless what Pell….unless what…….?’
Arla was now scared and clinging on to Pell’s arm.
‘Unless someone built this as some sort of defence mechanism to keep people out’
‘But we’re on the wrong side of ‘out’ Pell?
‘Yes, that’s true’
‘what’s that over there in the corner’
‘Can’t make it out. Hold the sprokle up higher’
They moved closer. Suddenly Arla screamed.
A skeleton lay long dead in the corner. Slumped and sad.
‘Ah……we’re definitely on the wrong side of ‘out’ Arla, we definitely are….’
‘Oh Pell….. what if this is it. This is where we die together……..hold me……I don’t want to die alone’
Pell put his arms around her. They’d never been this close. He gazed at her sprokle lit face. She was beautiful. From the first minute he’d met Arla, he knew there was a spark between them. Bright, beautiful and brave, she gave him butterflies in his stomach. They drew closer. For the first time his awkwardness and fear of the opposite sex had diminished. They drew closer still. Arla closed her eyes…….. Pell closed his…….. their first kiss was about to happen……..
……….when the rope ladder clonked Pell on the head………!
Pell, unclenched himself from Arla with a mixed sense of relief and disappointment. He looked up.
‘LOOK, up there, there’s a light!’
Arla, who’s face still bore the look of bitter disappointment, looked up. There was indeed a light and a ladder leading up to it. If only whoever’d dropped it had done it two minutes earlier, she’d have been even happier.
‘Well, I suppose we should give it a go. Looks like someone lives here after all’
After a bit of a struggle with the rope ladder, they both stood at the entrance to a long stone walled corridor. There were no flaming torches nor sprokle, yet there was light. They started walking, and walking and did some more walking until, eventually arriving at a wooden door which carried a sign saying ‘DO NOT DISTURB!’
Pell knocked at the door.
‘CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN!’ bellowed a voice behind the door.
‘I’m sorry’ said Pell in a slightly embarrassed tone. ‘We need help’
‘The door opened’
‘I know you need help. That’s why you’re here isn’t it………Pell’
‘How I know your name is not important……you are in grave danger……..as is your young lady friend here……Arla…isn’t it?’
If he did succeed in finding Ethrid The Wise One, Pell had expected an old wrinkled man with white hair with a crooked back and smelling of dead sprokle. Instead, the man that stood before him had long fair hair and looked the same age as Tarlo, Pell’s father.
‘We are fending off the Gold Ones even without the Elders from the tribe. They know nothing of what we do. But more are coming. I know we may need more than swiftness, brains and bravery if they return with more soldiers. That’s why we tried to find you’
‘I’m afraid, it’s not the ‘Gold Ones’ as you call them you need to fear. No, there are many darker forces out there looking for both of you than those stupid Romans. One is only two days horseride from here. He aims to hunt you down and kill you………….both’
‘Who knows us and why would they want to kill us?’
‘You are both more special than you know…….and he? He is…….. The Black Hawk…………..’
Pell Of the Selgovae Chapter 4 – ‘The Black Hawk’ was written by David Linden. you can follow me on Twitter @qosfc1919 © Dodo Productions 2015