Wednesday, 9 July 2014

1. Three Sides Of The Coin

Pierre Jan van der Ouderaa (1841-1915), The Temptation Of Eve. Source
Notice to readers. The story of Manius Massimo Giorgio (the buds and so forth) has been totally rewritten (or retold as audio files: I have choose a narrative sequence with PowerPoint and to write them down).

Chapters should appear one by one in a book-like sequence (1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc.) and not in a blog sequence (1.7, 1.6, 1.5 etc.).

The Manius story is conceived as a TV series ("Lost", "Desperate housewives", HBO Rome  etc.) but especially 1. as detective stories like Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout, Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler or 2. feuilletons such as The Count of Monte Cristo by the French author Alexandre Dumas père or like much higher quality works such as Balzac’s & Dickens’.

1.1 Sed libera nos a malo, amen.

[Enough for today folks. I had to follow a debate on Europe, had to perform together with a friend Bach's Chaconne before a little audience of 6 people and had to talk to a lawyer and a notary for a delicate matter. Even Superman has his limits hasn't he
:-( :-( :-(
Mario: "Hey, the three faces of the coin, look!!!"
Giorgio: "Would you please shut the hell up eh ???"]

Saturday, 10 September 2011


"A raven-haired lady appeared ...". Detail from The Lady of Shalott
Looking at Lancelot
(1894) by J. W. Waterhouse

[This is the last part of Manius's letter to Quintus - see the previous part. As readers might remember Manius had first fought with the witch in the forest and later he had met lascivious Fauna, a pantheistic deity who had gripped him with such violence that he had lost consciousness.]

[Italian original]

I wake up lying on a beach, Quintus. I don’t know how long I have been lying there nor why. The murmur of the waves mixes with the rustling of the surrounding trees.

Night is falling. Stupefied, I move closer to the shore-line.

The moon is rising from the sea and showing her full, benign disk. I immerse my head seven times into the sea water in order to purify myself.

I then invoke the name of the goddess who rules the universe:

Full moon rising from the ocean. Click for credits

Tu Luna,
luce feminea conlustrans cuncta terrarum,
iam nunc extremis subsiste,
et pausam pacem, Regina, tribue.

You Moon,
Who with your female light illuminate all lands,
Please help me in this time of adversity
And grant me, Queen, peace and rest.

And here the incipient night appears to reveal for an instant its silent secrets.

In the distance I see young people approaching. As soon as I distinguish them better I realize that they are Romans, wearing Roman sandals and tunics! My heart exults, Quintus! After months spent among the savages I am at last in an area controlled by the British! They are not too different from us and especially from our classmates from Albien, although they are now rather Italianized.

They are escorting a young man, hooded and blindfolded, whose face I cannot discern. I can tell he’s an Angle from his woollen tunic and tight leggings. His arms are tied behind his back.

Two nice-looking girls whose fair tresses are dressed upon their forehead come up to me and take me by the hand. Their aspect, nordic, misty almost and yet pure and inspired, gives me a feeling of peace.

The sound of a horn echoes in the night. Everyone turns and begins to walk towards a wood that is visible in the distance on a rise overlooking the beach.

As we are moving behind the high ground and proceeding along a narrow path I gradually realize that we are approaching a large Roman property, with orderly, cultivated fields, although its splendour now seems a thing of the past.

The property is fortified by a wooden palisade and a rampart. Armed guards patrol its perimeter.

"A path between a double row of willows...". Click for credits and to enlarge

We are let into the property and walk down a path between a double row of willows until we come to the main building, made of solid blocks of stone. The construction had partially fallen down and its missing parts have been replaced with solid logs. Stone and mortar seem forgotten arts in this isle at the end of the world.

The high two-leaf carved-bronze door opens creaking on its hinges. Once past the vestibulum we enter a majestic square peristylium around which the rooms of the main building are arranged.

A peristylium, again from a painting by John William Waterhouse.

I notice the signs of time here as well. Many columns and the portico roof have been rebuilt in wood even though the overall appearance is pleasant, showing care, love. The far side of the peristylium opens onto a wood - a birch, rowan, willow and ash tree grove - that I had already discerned from the beach and from where one can enjoy a magnificent view over the sea.

At the heart of the grove an altar rises, not quadragular, like ours, but circular, in the Celtic way [see below].

Everyone forms a circle around the altar in front of which, in the direction of the sea, a weird wooden structure has been placed, like a throne. And here comes a procession of people of both sexes wearing immaculate linen tunics. They advance among chants, melodious sounds of flutes and acute clinking of sistras.

Sacrifice Rock at Maria Taferl, Austria. The altar was used
by the ancient Celts to make sacrifices upon.

They precede a breathtaking raven-haired lady whose face is hidden by a veil. She advances with slow and sacral steps. Besides her hair I can only see her snow-white forehead and shiny sea-green eyes.

The lady, surely the domina of the house, sits down nobly on the wooden throne. It is the deep of the night. The grove is lit only by the torches and by the rays of the full moon now high in the sky.

Everyone drinks from ceramic cups placed on inlaid-wood sidetables. The two girls come up and offer wooden cups to me and to the hooded man. One helps the tied man to drink, the other hands me the bowl that I start sipping. It's a strange tasting liquor, not entirely unpleasant.

"Why are our cups made of wood?" I ask her in Latin.
"There's a reason for everything. Do not ask, Roman" she replies.

The joy of hearing my mother-tongue again is overrun by the doubt about what I am drinking and especially by the perception of a strange tension in the air, as if something were about to happen.

Now the two maidens do not pay heed to us anymore. Hands joined, they are absorbed in prayer.

The music falls silent. Everyone is looking at the throne.

The woman is nobly sitting on it. The thin fabric of her tunic is showing rather than hiding a body with rounded hips and turgid breasts that seem impatient with the constriction of the linen.

The charm she radiates is ever intensifying.

The music, resumed with the addition of percussions, is getting punchy. People infected by it suggest slight rhythmic movements with their bodies.

Finally the woman stands up and, with a fierce look, lifting her arms toward the night planet, she thus exclaims:

O Queen of Heaven,
Who smile at mortals
With a benign look;
O Goddess,
Whom with any rite
Or name
We are allowed to invoke,
Be it Venus, Diana,
Isis or Brigantia:

You the people of green Albien
Call in the time of adverse fortune.
You who the bright peaks of the sky,
Or the desolate silences of hell,
Rule with a nod:
We invoke you, queen immortal!
We call you with our pleading voice!
Accept our gifts, lady divine,
And guide us, mother of all universes!

Then the woman removes her veil and wig and shows her real look.

I feel my heart skipping beats. The matchless lush red hair gushes out, partly loose and partly interwoven with strings and ribbons. The wild redhead and formidable warrior, & the beautiful lady of the house are therefore the same person!

She looks at me with a mixture of triumph and tenderness. She then unties her tunic and appears naked, her muscular and well proportioned body offered for all to see.

A whirlwind of feelings prevents me from realizing that strong hands are clutching both me and the hooded man and holding us nailed.

At this time the sorceress' green eyes flash and her appearance begins to change.

[I felt so strange, my vision was distorted, Quintus, I do not know if this actually happened]

... eagle, majestic and proud ... deer with moist eyes ... hound tenacious, nervous ... enigmatic gray-eyed feline.

And then hound again, and cat, a white cat and black cat, and also a red striped cat with shiny claws and sneaky eyes.

The woman, once regained human features, finally opens her hands and a frog slipping from her fingers jumps onto her breast. A diamond appears on the creature’s warty head. It is such a bright gem that I cannot but stare at it, mesmerized. And the diamond grows, and grows, and grows and it gets so big and blinding that I lose my senses.

When I gain consciousness I find myself face down and tightly bound to a wooden scaffold placed on top of the circular altar. A posture rather dishonourable, to tell the truth, since, having had my clothes removed my rear is offered to the sight of everybody.

Next to me, tied up and exposed much in the same way, is the young man whose hood and blindfold have been removed. His muscular body looks kind of familiar. I take a better look at him and recognizing him immediately I cry astounded:

“Qwil!! What are you doing here!!”
“Same thing as you: showing my butt up in the air.”
“When did you arrive in Britannia?”
“When did we arrive ... more than one month ago.”
“What? You mean …”
“That the whole crazy bunch is with me, except Quintus. They are British, after all. They wanted to rescue you and at the same time fight for their country in danger."
"We have been looking for you for weeks. Then thanks to Pavlos, a Greek merchant with a good informers network across the country, we have localized you, although the exact location still eluded us. I found it today thanks to a ploy ... "

"That's why you were dressed like an Angle?"

"Well, being of Germanic race and getting along decently with the local dialect I sneaked out of the taberna where we were eating and relaxing (a pretty boring place) and with stolen clothes I started asking questions around. Rumors spread fast. But in a forest not far from your tower .... AHHHH! "

Qwil's cry interrupts the story. A red welt is showing across his buttocks.

I turn around. Behind us three women are standing, bare breasted and holding a bundle of thin birch branches with their right hand. The one who has lashed Qwil first is a virgin. To her right is a mother whose acrid smell of milk penetrates our nostrils. Finally, an old woman with visionary eyes. Another lash falls, this time from the mother, who hits harder. Then it is the old woman's turn, no less vigorous than the other two. Qwil, not taken aback this time and clenching his teeth doesn't emit any groan.

“I have a faint idea why they are doing this” I say.
“Me too. It's a sacrifice, I’m afraid. And it doesn’t seem difficult to grasp who the chosen victims are."

The blows continue to fall upon Qwil’s butt and reach the number of nine. The women always hit in turn and calmly follow the gestures of an ancient rite. It is never possible to predict when the next blow is about to arrive.

Dolce far Niente (1880) by John William Waterhouse (Roma, 1849 – Londra, 1917)

It's my turn now. I grit my teeth. It is again the virgin who strikes first. The pain is excruciating, and I too try not to emit any groan. Turning around to look at the young woman I am stunned since I seem to recognize those green eyes flashes. What hell of a witchcraft is that?

The lashes continue to fall upon my sensitive rear until they too reach the number of nine. I then hear the witch rustle behind me and whisper into my ear while stroking my hair: "Now you come with me, soldier. It is time we clarify a few issues. "

Untied but still immobilized by extremely robust hands I am pushed behind the sorceress. Leaving the grove we reach the majestic quadrangular peristyle in whose central garden grass, flowers, fountains and ponds are arranged with elegant symmetry.

We come to a nice room overlooking the colonnade [see picture above]. Its floor mosaic depicts a woodland scene with Diana the huntress and two nymphs to her sides, three perfectly proportioned figures, with bare legs, arms and breasts and hair loose in the wind. The walls are frescoed with delicate floral motifs that form the backdrop to scenes in which nymphs, satyrs and humans chase one another with Cupids busy to bring the joys & torments of love to everybody. In front, a bed of fine wood inlaid with ivory, tortoiseshell, and gold.


The cubiculum [ie a Roman bedroom] curtain closes behind us just as I exclaim:

"Qwil, the young man who was tied next to me, must absolutely be set free. He is not an Angle, but a Roman like me, and, perhaps, you."

Friday, 9 September 2011

His worst nightmares

William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun (1805)

[Italian original]

“What a story!” Massimo thought disconcertingly after he had finished reading Giorgio’s e-mail. 

Besides, those strange events seemed to mysteriously intersect with a few instances in Giorgio’s recent life which had occurred before he had been suffering from hallucinations.

His master's studies on ancient religions, his university teaching activities and especially his contagious passion weren’t liked by everybody, especially in a city like Rome, a big Mediterranean centre; lazy, tolerant (and indifferent) but also the seat of the immense organizational, economic and ideological power of the Vatican.

Such a power acted as a magnet for individuals and organizations among which dark forces escaping control could always take root. What worried Massimo were not a few articles in Spanish that had appeared in odd spiritual journals, in which George's activities were stigmatized as 'corrupting', but rather a series of anonymous letters addressed to his master and containing veiled threats which always ended with the Latin words:

Draco rufus
modicum tempus habet.
[The red dragon
has little time].

What did this sentence mean? Giorgio thought that the 'red dragon' was him so the words meant something like "your days are numbered." However, why was he the 'red dragon'?

A Vatican codex of the Bible in Greek and in Latin

He supposed the phrase to be the result of an assemblage of two passages of the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse of John) in the Vulgata Clementina translation of the Greek original. More precisely, two words from 12.4 (draco rufus) and three from 12.12 (modicum tempus habet). In most interpretations draco rufus, the red dragon, was the devil. Giorgio, therefore, as a scholar of late antiquity's religions & gods, was a follower of the devil.

Massimo was perplexed. He knew that to the first Christians, all pagan deities were considered living infernal demons, and those who adored them, followers of the infernal powers. But who supported such notion today? To today's Christians the ancient gods were just non-existent.

Another depiction of the Red Dragon by William Blake (1805). Detail

Besides, if this was the right interpretation of the sentence in the letters (i.e. that Giorgio’s days were numbered), the biblical passage had different and more complex meanings that were open to multiple interpretations.

In any case, someone was threatening Giorgio, that much was clear. And perhaps he was using the imaginative language of the ancient revelation to enhance the psychological effects of the threat.

All this sadly brought Massimo back to Deirdre. The girl had by now reached home and might switch on her PC at any moment.

Massimo thought about their last date at the pub. At the end of the evening, when they were standing in the street in front of the pub’s entrance and were about to say goodbye, he noticed the beautiful red gold necklace that Deirdre was wearing around her neck.

"How beautiful! It brings out the red of your hair. The place was so dark I had hardly noticed it. Now though it shines under the light of the lamppost "
"It's a gift from a friend."
"There's a small Greek inscription engraved on it. May I read it? I'm a fan of ancient languages."

It was true but it was basically just an excuse to get closer to her and perhaps touch her lightly, if possible.

He felt the young woman’s breath on him as he was deciphering the Greek words.

"It's about a red dragon - she said. I always loved the fantasy genre. But I must rush home now. I always receive late-night emails from my boss that I have to answer before going to bed. He's always travelling around the globe. Now he's in South America.
A la prochaine Massimo."
"A la prochaine Deirdre."

The girl smiled at him and walked away with brisk steps. There was something so charming in her ways.

Which though hurt Massimo this time, since the sentence he had just read on her necklace was now obsessively whirling in his head … the red dragon has little time … the red dragon has little time…

How was it ever possible?

The gold necklace bore the Greek original words inscribed:

δράκων πυρρὸς ὀλίγον καιρὸν ἔχει

Which corresponded exactly to the Latin words taken from the Vulgata: draco rufus modicum tempus habet.

From that night the thought of who Deirdre really was had haunted Massimo.

Massimo is waiting at his BackTrack Linux box for Deirdre to reach home

The girl, for some strange alchemy of the human heart, was a bit like a glimmer of hope in the darkest phase of his life - save for his early childhood, when he tragically lost his father.

But now that sentence … It was very unlikely that words from different passages in the Apocalypse of John had been assembled in exactly the same way in both the letters sent to George and in the inscription carved on the girl's necklace.

Yes, Massimo thought, the odds in favour of mere chance were definitely low.

A 'received mail' ding brought him back to reality. Deirdre must have switched on her computer as Massimo had received a reply to the e-mail he had sent her.

“Hi Massimo.
I would love to see you again soon as well. I am leaving for a few days, but I’ll be back at the beginning of the next week. Call me.

Massimo already knew Deirdre’s IP address from their previous chatting sessions. He activated his powerful Backtrack Linux tools. In less than a minute he knew all he needed to know: the number of vulnerable ports, domain name, operating system’s, firewall’s and antivirus’ types & versions (versions have well-known vulnerabilities so they are a key element in any attack), the diagram of the network she was on and so forth.

After acquiring the administrator privileges in her machine he sent her a trojan horse that was invisible to any anti-virus software for the simple reason that it had been created by him and his students in the security labs of the training company he worked for. They had just modified the old and (in)glorious Netbus created by Carl-Fredrik Neikter, a Swedish programmer. He then connected to the Trojan server with its client software. The magic was done. Deirdre's desktop appeared on his screen.

Deirdre seemed artistically very gifted. Her desktop wallpaper was a splendid collage of images with an intriguing Nordic flavour: a fireplace with burning logs, a small white cottage on a sea coast swept by the ocean wind, a pair of white birds walking on the foam of a rough sea … images from a misty world deprived of sun and so far away from his but for this same reason terribly fascinating.

One thing though made him start. Three small red dragons were at the sides of her screen - the top, the right-hand side and the left-hand side - and were joined by three thin lines so as to form the vertices of a triangle that was aesthetically pleasing but also rather disquieting.

He did not have time to watch any longer since a sound from his Linux box alerted him that Deirdre’s PC was being checked remotely by someone or something. He had to act quickly so he started to capture and analyse the incoming traffic into her system. Yes, someone (or an automatic script) was actually remotely executing commands on her PC. And there, among the mass of data captured, he found what he feared:

netstat –an | find "12345"

The command meant that someone (or something) was checking the 12345 port, from where trojans of the Netbus kind - exactly like the Trojan horse of the myth which opened the city's gate to the enemy - usually allow the conquering of the machines that host them.

He had been caught. Connecting the trojan to its default port had been a mistake.

Fortunately Massimo’s IP address was concealed behind the Tor anonymity network. It was therefore very unlikely that they would get to him. But what kind of organization did Deirdre belong to? She had mentioned only two people, her and her boss. Only two people? Utilizing a costly IDS (Intrusion Detection System) that only medium- or large-sized corporations implemented?

In fact what he was expecting at any moment occurred. Deirdre's desktop vanished from his screen. The trojan had been identified and destroyed.


Massimo slumped into his chair. He knew he could counter attack with a much higher level of sophistication.

But as of now it seemed his worst nightmares were coming true.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


An old Anglo-Saxon weapon, called an axe-hammer. Click for credits

[Original in Italian]

As soon as he pulled out his sword Wulf turned towards his men and stopped them with a single glance. He then called Coalan, his Romano-British slave, and related the message to be translated to the foreigners to him. The square-faced, rodent-grey-eyed little man began to speak in the British [Brythonic] language. His words were articulated in a slow and firm way:

"Wulf, the chief of the **** clan greets Manius Papirius Lentulus' friends. He is a great friend of Manius. Therefore Manius' friends are also his friends. My master says he knows where the Roman lives: in a tower next to the sea not far from here. Some hunters however saw him leave two days ago in the direction of the Red Spectre's house. It is a mysterious place that the Germanic population avoid like cats avoid water. It is said to be inhabited by a dangerous witch living amidst Britons who are hostile to the Germanic population.
Wulf therefore proposes to form a group of brave people who do not fear spectres and who should set out immediately in search of our common Roman friend before it's too late.”

An early Anglo-Saxon house. Click for credits

The buddies looked at one another.

"This story of the Red Spectre seems like a whopper" someone said.
"I think we can trust him" Philippus observed.
"Also because I don't think we have many other alternatives" said Pavlos taking a look at the dozens of Germans ready to tear them apart.

"Okay," said Richardus, sheathing his gladius, soon imitated by the others.
"We will do as Wulf says. The men in our group will join Wulf and his men in this expedition. The women will remain with the Germans and will wait for us. Wulf, who seems to be the chief here, will fully guarantee their safety."
Whispers and voices of protest arose from the group of the women. Then Jenny, Daphne, Rosarie and Geraldine nodded to Cherie, who spoke for all of them.

"You won't think you’re leaving us here alone" she said furiously.
"It would be much more dangerous for us to stay here than going to the house of these ... spectres, who we don’t believe much in anyway. And you know better than us that we were trained by our common Master as effectively as you were. Finally, the presence of women is always an element of peace. No way! We're joining too. It’s up to the Syrians ladies whether they stay or go."

Wulf, with his blood friends Ogden and Kaelan now on his side, found no objection to the women's participation in the expedition, since according to German custom women follow men everywhere, often in war too.


The group then left the taberna and found fresh horses outside, ready to be mounted. The buddies’ baggage had been sent by Pavlos previously to a secure place in the town of Venta-Northwic, where he had trusted contacts.

So the group, formed by Wulf, Ogden, Kaelan, Coalan (and four additional German men) plus the colorful bunch of friends (the Syrian women had decided to stay), departed in the direction of the dark forest.


Standing just outside the taberna’s heavy door two monks dressed in black were watching them leave. Then, at a nod from the man with a hawk-like face, they headed for their steeds.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Massimo, Deirdre & Pombal. The buddies encounter Wulf

La Venus del espejo (Toilet of Venus) by the Spanish Golden-Age painter Diego Velázquez (1599–1660). Was she a real redhead? Click the link (Wikipedia) for attribution

Massimo [read the original in Italian] checked the GPS tracking software. “4 minutes and Deirdre would reach home” he thought.

Pure or impure goddess?

How would the mystery of the beautiful Irish girl be solved?

Massimo was extremely tense. He needed the Hermetics (whose profound words usually brought him peace) but reading them would require time. And God knows where his Alhambra was. He loved to caress its strings, its rich textured sound so well suiting the temperament of a dreamer.

That damn Russian Ukrainian, Pombal, - in honour of whose genius he had given away a room of his apartment for a ridiculously low rent - must have taken it to the Piazzetta with him or put it back in the late 18th century wardrobe that uncle Carlo had left him before he died.

Fortunately long-time meditation on ancient texts allowed him to improvise and vibrate with words now dead.

Classical Guitar. Click for attribution

Deirdre, Deirdre,
num nec tecum
possum vivere
nec sine te?

[Deirdre, Deirdre,
perhaps can I live
neither with you
nor without you?]

Eyes of a thoughtful green blue, long and perfect legs, sensual hips ... and what about her pale skin? Oh that face, her thriving breasts, and whitest arms and hands that, he sensed, knew how to give happiness in silence clinging …

Deirdre, splendid and crimson-haired creature, who seemed as if carved first and then polished for years by an ancient sculptor gone mad ...
He felt a pang. Weren't the rosci cursed by the gods?? ['roscio is red-headed in Roman'; note by 'he who is writing']. 
Goddess & mother of all dreams - or filthy whore with a deceitful heart? 
Since - Massimo thought not without anguish - some of her statements during their last date could not be uttered but by those who ... 
He drove his mind ghosts away with anger. The matter could be very serious and demanded lucid force. 

He doubled his speed of reading, which is normally between 250 and 350 words per minute in Italian. 

Italian ex soccer player Stefano Bettarini. Attribution
Giorgio many years earlier, in order to help his pupil with school work, had taught Massimo various speed-reading techniques. And Massimo, once a successful soccer player then badly injured and turned into a flop, was now accustomed to make use of ALL of them alternatively, ie according to texts, to the environment (or to his own whim). Only two of them increased reading speed enormously but greatly reduced text comprehension.


The sentences were now taking shape out of the screen fonts (just Pythagorean combinations he reflected). Concepts and images began to flow more rapidly into his mind.

Helmet found in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England (6th cent. CE)

Giorgio so continued:

“At some point a giant with noble eagle eyes appeared in the doorway of the taberna.

Long blondish hair coarsely ringed, beard and moustache, muscular body clad in wolf and deer skin, metal plates that protected his broad chest, the Germanus wore a long sword hanging from a wide belt made of badger's (or boar's) fur.
A true colossus, Massimo, and showing that pride which in those days was (and still is) a mark of command.

His appearance raised murmurs of approval, respect (and fear).

Some Angles began to clamour by hitting their weapons unto their shields and shouting "Wulf! Wulf! Wulf."

Others gathering to the left of the giant, a powerful figure at their centre, looked at him with rancour. The members of a rival clan?

Wulf checked the room and quickly identified the foreigners, they standing out against the mass of the locals as the most beautiful golden ears stand out against a field of wheat shaken by the evening wind.

The Roman men were playing dice and discussing Qwil’s bizarre disappearance a few hours earlier (“Absolutely typical of him” Philippus and Chaerie had commented but Jenny had rebuked their Germanic friend from Vindobona in absentia by saying: “What an IDIOTIC thing to get lost in such a dangerous environment!”).

They all also debated a painful encounter that had occurred in the nearby village prior to their decision to reach the taberna and forget their woes for a bit.

The women, laughing while betting on dice combinations, their voices so silvery, dear Massimo, as if Beauty, Soul's Nobility & Eros had incarnated in their joyful personae; the Syrian ladies hiding naughtily behind their embroidered veils and at the same time trying to evaluate the wealth of potential customers; and Pavlos, our resourceful Greek merchant, enwrapped in dreams before a mysterious a wax tablet: the figures of his commerce or winged words that made him fly elsewhere?

Two Roman women reading their favourite poet as they were imagined in 1888 by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912). Detail. Click for attribution and to enlarge

You gotta know Massimo that – but don't feel like telling ya why ok? I know I'm getting neurotic ok? - a Romano-British slave, a certain Coalan, square-faced and rodent grey eyed, had noticed the presence of the weird group in the taberna (or longhus, as the Angles call it) and had rushed to inform Ogden and Kaelan, Wulf's sworn friends from the day when the three of them, as children, had drunk their respective blood.
Coalan was the property of the warriors’ clan and part of Wulf's personal network of informers. His father had implored the Germans for mercy in the course of a raid and had obtained life for him and his family (but not freedom).

A mid-20th century reconstruction of a Danish long house in Hobro, Denmark. Click for attribution

"They are mostly Romano-British in the old way - he had told them - who, in addition to the British language still speak Latin together with an absolutely incomprehensible tongue, and who dance and sing in so unusual a manner that our longhus risked turning into a place of, ehm, absolute revelry.

To these words a brief description of the group had followed, as a result of which the two friends had looked at each other with a gleam in their eyes (did it correspond to Manius' stories on his far-away friends?) and had quickly sent a fast horseman in the forest where Wulf was hunting.

This is why Massimo, dear friend and former pupil, such a colossus had rushed into the taberna.

[“Dear Master - Massimo, this dark-haired and dark-eyed real Roman from Rome, had thought ('what a black-haired clone of A.S. Roma's player Francesco Tutti you are' Pombal often kidded him), - I know I must be strong also for you now that you've become unsure, and, well, an old fart - let me call a spade a spade.”]

The Roma soccer team logo. Attribution

The friends immersed in their dice game & conversation realized only at the last moment that an immense blonde tower had appeared less than a yard from their noses and that, terrifying in its mass, was shouting with a thundering voice incomprehensible words:

"Ic freond, IC FREOOOOND, ond ...”

The reaction of the men in the group was fast - in those times even a second of distraction could mean death.

Six Romano-Britons, their gladii already in their hands, turned the massive table upside down against the giant (gladii are lethal when used by trained Romans). Pavlos pulled out an inlaid-with-gold throwing dagger he always carried with him (even in bed?). He had already shown his ability to use it with deadly precision. The women were looking at the giant with contempt and challenge. The courtesans were instead screeching like scared gulls, although one of them concealed a stone in her delicate, ringed hand.

Anglo-Saxon House, Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Such Fun!

The sudden action of the Romans was followed by a reaction from the Angles who were in the immediate vicinity. Easy to anger, some began to hurl themselves against the group of strangers.  The men would pay with their lives (and the women with a humiliating slavery) for the unspeakable offence to their leader.

The buddies saw themselves surrounded by some dozens of furious men. Arrows, lances and swords were pointed towards them. Ready to sell their lives dearly they knew that their death was near since the fighters' ratio was of one to four.


At that moment a roar rent the air.

The heavy table flew away as if it were made of paper.

The gigantic man emerged from the floor.

Looming over the bunch of buddies he unsheathed his huge sword with flashing blue eyes ...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Witch 2b. The Cretan dance. Fauna appears

Venus Verticordia by Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882). Wikipedia. Attribution
Venus was also called Verticordia by the Romans since she was capable of 'changing human hearts'. Worshipped during the Veneralia festival (April 1) Verticordia had a temple on the Via Salaria

[Read the Italian original. An Englishman living in Milan, Andy, is helping me with some editing.]

Taken aback by the inexorable trajectory - I was always good with the javelin do you recall Quintus? - the lass however succeeded in propelling herself forward with such impetus that the deadly lance missed her abdomen and tore her tunic at the level of her hindquarters without scratching her flesh I believe.

The force that had driven her forward was so lethal I was thunderstruck.

I therefore took my bow.

Arrows whistled in quick succession though wavered on purpose (unpredictability is deadly, remember?). She nevertheless avoided my darts by performing this odd dance on the rump of her horse (of undoubted Cretan origin, Quintus).

Bull leaping. Minoan fresco from palace of Knossos, Crete, currently in the Herakleion museum

She circled with elegance, an inhuman melody emitting from her throat - a terrible buzz, deep and acute - her fair legs now concealed now flashing through the cracks of her tunic.

And I, closer and closer, our steeds' flanks dangerously scraping against each other, my arrows all gone, what happened Quintus was that I became so enchanted and progressively unwarlike due to that mysterious creature.

Although the worst was yet to come, Di Manes!

After the Cretan dance the girl had assumed a crouched-on-all-fours, feline position on the rump of her stallion, launched at breakneck speed on the forest damp obscure recesses. The siren of the woods had lowered her shoulders, arched her back and pointed her rear upwards whose perfect roundness was thus offered to my view.

A sculpture from the Norman Lindsay House (see last image below for infos). Attribution

The sun bursting through the clouds heralding a spectacular sunset, the noise of animals becoming deafening, I was there, those half & symmetrical moons in front of me, so close that I could almost touch them, a pale-skinned double globe with designs of a delicate blue.

Her garment lacerated by my pilum on her hindquarters did not keep much from sight Quintus! Geometries made sensuality, ideas of beauty made flesh were exposed and stirring deliria of sumptuous pleasures and everlasting feelings of lust & love.

Well, such unchaste commotion, dear friend of better days, ended up with being fatal to me.

The flaming haired maiden took advantage of my confusion and making use of the arm hidden from my sight grasped, from her bag, strings to whose ends small brass spheres were attached.

She then hurled the strange weapon with such vehemence in the direction of Hælend's legs that both horse and rider - that is, us – couldn't but fall to the ground with a loud crash due to the speed of the race.

The tattooed female's craftiness, however, cost her dearly as well since her stallion (was he confounded also?) stumbled in turn over superficial roots and hurtled down over the mossy weeds & soil with an even louder crash due the beast's bulk.

Another Lindsay's sculpture. Attribution

I hit my head on the turf and got scratched all over.

My initial stunned condition prevented me from realizing at first that the picta had vanished but her horse was lying down on the ground nearby and was letting out neighs of pain.

Hælend, up already instead, was calmly approaching the Italian thoroughbred which she coldly executed with three violent (and accurate) kicks in the head.

Hælend looked at me, a look of revenge in her eyes. The victory of valour over nobility? Well, how could I blame her. Moreover the white stallion was wounded and had to be dispatched. The wolves that haunt the forest would have caused him a horrible death.

Hælend then walked towards me. The expression of her eyes revealed kindness, concern. She licked my wounds and as if by miracle I immediately felt better. I got up and stretched. Hector, my gladius, was still on me and my helmet I found behind a bush.
Hælend, satisfied, was already in a nearby meadow grazing Albion's emerald grass.

Well, Quintus, we know too well she isn't as classy as an Italian horse (I can well believe it!) but what a fantastic gift from the Angles and the Genii protecting our Rome!
Therefore I couldn't but chant:

Non ergo essem
dei Romae mei
Orientisque Aegyptorumque,
non omnino essem,
nisi essetis in me...
[I wouldn't exist then
Ye gods of Rome,
Of Egypt & the Orient,
I wouldn't exist
If ye weren't in me ...]

Isis mothering. Credits

This song, performed with Egyptian tones (I'm a decent singer, I'll admit) was followed by a profound growling that left me disconcerted, since the forest animals had fallen silent, frozen.

I became afraid. Had my psalm been inappropriate? Had the British gods gotten angry at how I had dealt with that red-headed Albion's daughter?
The thing is, lost as I was in my doubts I hadn't noticed the Creature. Who with quiet footsteps was heading toward me.

Feral Being, goat goddess
By shepherds & peasants loved
And horribly feared,
Emerged before me.

This is how we imagine Fauna. Sculpture from the Norman Lindsay gardens. Lindsay was an Australian artist, sculptor, writer, editorial cartoonist, scale modeler & boxer (1879-1969). Attribution

The Creature, daughter of Hermes and Dryope, let out a cry and the wood resounded.

Then she seized me, her body steaming with humours. One cannot escape from a goddess ...

My surrender to such a beastly pleasure let go from my memory the rumour that those dei inferi were supposed to have died with the advent of Christ ...

Not that it mattered. A sudden tune played on marsh reeds made ​​the air vibrate together with my senses.

Too late I realized my foolhardiness. The last beam of sunlight, violent and unexpected, pierced the scene and Pan's cry was heard again, terrifying.

Uncontrollable panic shook my whole person.

And Fauna, Bacchus' lascivious companion, - arms hands legs and bodies giving and receiving pleasure - gripped with extreme violence what makes me a man.

My scream, though not panic as hers, ripped through the night that was about to lazily fall upon the wood.

All then was nothing. Darkness closed in.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Witch 2a. Striking to kill

[I recognized her immediately Quintus. It was that savage now badly disguised as a lady. Disguised as a lady? Ah she really needed a lesson from a civilized Roman!]

I advanced in her direction.

She had less blue paint on her face now although her beautifully moon-white skin was of course still adorned with blue tattoos all over.

Her tunic had long ornamental cuts showing glimpses of a muscled and perfectly shaped leg, which confounded me for an instant – you know this weakness I have for long and well-shaped legs (not to mention curves) on the body of a woman.

She appeared concentrated on three strange trees rich with berries of three different colours - white, red, black - one for each tree.

From the bag across her horse’s back I caught sight of more berries plus herbs, mushrooms, roots – all of amazing colours.
"F@%& her suave beauty!" I cursed and gotten off my horse I began to run towards her.

She was quicker. A phosphorescent glare amidst a halo of red hair and away they vanished - the woman and the stallion - into the deep of the wood.

I felt Hælend’s snout behind me so I swiftly turned around, jumped unto horseback and the chase began.

I soon got closer but at the last moment the picta dashed away with her stallion. Got closer again and to my surprise once more they dashed like a shooting star.

I realized that the speed of the race was wildly increasing and at every instant both the picta and I had to avoid the low branches that risked hitting us right on the head.

What sorceries were those? The weird race left me so full of wonder my friend. But right when I was starting to ask myself fanciful questions about the woman she mercurially let me reach her.

“Now I gotcha picta meretrix!” I bellowed. So I took a long thong of leather from my bag with a running noose Wulf had taught me to use in hunting and tossed it in her direction. But with amazing speed - her blue-green eyes flashing, pulling out a gladius similar to mine though slightly longer - she cut off the thong with abrupt force.

So here we engaged into this 'attack and defence' fight with quick blows from both sides since she possessed fencing capabilities different from mine but no less effective.

Talented Hælend had in the meanwhile placed herself very close to the white stallion and had bumped him so violently that the majestic steed had staggered and the picta had almost fallen but rebounding miraculously from the branches she had clung unto she was now landed (an incredible aerial pirouette!) on the horse’s immaculate back.

And there she was, standing ferociously, her lovely sandalled feet perfectly parallel!

Then, gotten dangerously close to us again, her horse not being stupid Quintus (I can well believe it, it was a Roman steed!), she clutched as fast as lightning what was left of the cord in my hand and unhorsed me with utmost violence.

Spirits of the Underworld! How could I ever imagine a woman could be so terribly brutal, fast and agile, all at the same time!

She reminded me of some naked-breasted women in the island of Crete where my father took me as a child. They vaulted elegantly (and fiercely) over bulls' backs thus refreshing a tradition today corrupt though still amazing - a performance carried out to stun travellers (and to collect coins or food from them).

Thus violently drawn to the white & huge stallion's body, my head fell with a thud right between her beautiful legs that smelled of fragrant musk.

Now a slight confusion arose (which softened me towards her, what a moron I am) but didn't blur though my decision to raise the level of Force up to number Five.

Do you remember the relationship between numbers and life which our Magister taught us in Rome with his inspired words? In every normal condition we since then usually place ourselves under the protection of Number Three, the Number of All.

The Tetractys, a mathematical & mystical symbol devised by the the Pythagoreans

But, such levels, here in Britain, while being trained by Wulf and his friends, I have aptly extended to field fight during these long months. I've in fact grown into a better soldier thanks to an innate instinct we true Romans possess, but also I'll admit thanks to Wulf's and his two friends' military drilling.
So, after taking that decision – switching to number 5 Force – I proceeded, and bit her calf with my teeth which made her cry out loud.

So, after taking that decision – of switching to number 5 Force – I proceeded and bit her calf with my teeth which made her cry out loud.

She reacted and threw me in the air with a tremendous kick and if it weren't for sweet Hælend's promptness, Quintus meus, my soul would now be fluttering along the flaming Phlegethon where bad sinners - I am one no doubt - are sent.

In fact I landed in slow motion on Hælend like a sack of German potatoes. The clash with the picta had become almost aquatic, as if a spell from her had been cast on the scene and we were fighting in the crystal waters of a sacred river.

At this point a decision had to be taken.

The woman was indeed a formidable warrior and a dangerous black magic sorceress the Roman custom didn't tolerate. It grieved me having to kill her but I realized I had to do it for the sake of survival: she lived too close to my tower and could attack me at any time of day or night.

I was swallowing - the perfume of her body had slightly cracked the impassible will of the warrior - when the level of confrontation was by me brought to the great power of the Seven Number.

As we school buddies know, Quintus, the notions expressed by the heptad are ALL that is right according to circumstances - there implying fortune, control and what leads things to an end among the rest.

One of the heptad's deities was also Mars, the Roman god of war.

I found my spear on the ground. I took it.

With speed, strength and utmost precision (I know in advance whether a pilum, my favourite weapon, will hit the target or not) I shot the long sharp-pointed lance against the sorceress' abdomen.

The sun was about to set over a marvellous landscape when the iron point began its deadly flight.