A/N: This is a bit long for an author's note, but I feel I should explain the alternate reality of this story before you begin.
This story takes place during the beginnings of the Roman Empire between 77 and 79 AD. Mutants exist and the most powerful ones are even worshipped as demi-gods. Younger mutants and those with weaker powers are accepted and given places of honor in Roman society. But not all mutants are created alike in the Roman mind. Barbarian mutants are feared and forced into servitude whenever possible.
This story begins in northern France. Although the Romans and the Celts were enemies until Rome completely conquered the regions, I have not stuck to the traditional dating of these events. In reality, the Celts were conquered before 77AD, but due to later events in this story I needed to alter the dates.
I'm going to keep the character names and some of the accents. Many accents would have been common in ancient Rome, especially the Celtic and Germanic accents. Although French is very different from the ancient Celtic tongue, Remy will still use many French terms but will also have a few authentic Celtic ones. Otherwise, I will try and keep the Roman culture and daily life the same. Any exceptions, I'll note for you in later chapters.
As a general rule, the Roman characters are speaking Latin, which is why Remy doesn't understand them in this chapter. Starting with the next chapter, he will have learned Latin and be able to follow conversations. As always, foreign words are italicized. Feel free and ask me any questions you have about this universe. And yes, they do have their typical powers.
AMOR OMNIA VINCIT
Deep among the alder trees and peat bogs of northern France, a tribal town sat atop a gentle rise fortified by a timber wall. Here, in the outer boundaries of the known world, a man faced the most difficult decision of his young life. Appointed chieftain after the death of his father due to his unique gifts, the protection and well-being of his people rested solely on his shoulders and they were now faced with a threat beyond imagination.
The heat from the central fire radiated through the roundhouse, keeping the winter chill at bay, but no one noticed the temperature. Remy LeBeau sat on the elevated platform next to his wife, Belladonna, trying to focus on the problem at hand, but the din escalated drowning out his thoughts. Rubbing the bridge of his nose and sighing, he felt the weight of the situation pressing down.
"We need t' face dem! We can't jus' sit here and let our families starve!" A voice rang out above the others.
Another voice shouted out. "It's been days, now. I agree wit' Etienne. We need t' take action!"
Belladonna reached out to her husband and gently squeezed his hand in her own. Looking over at her understanding and sympathetic, blue eyes, Remy took strength and stood. "Quiet! I agree."
Stepping down from the platform, Remy scanned the room and addressed the men. "But calm down, and follow me."
His long strides carried him across the smoke filled room, and out into the cool winter air. The men silently followed, as Remy ascended the ramp up the fortification wall to look out over the flat plain below. Turning back to his men, he pulled his father's sword. "Look out over dese walls, and consider what y' ask."
An artificial thunder rolled across the plain created by the footfalls of the army below. Smoke billowed from the burning fields and outlining houses, as over five thousand armored men prepared for the coming confrontation by building walls and ditches. The defenders would not escape. Rome never stopped fighting until her enemies were utterly destroyed. They left nothing in their wake.
"Are y' still ready t' fight wit' me?"
The silence stretched over the warriors.
"We have watched as dese invaders have taken village after village, destroyin' everything dey touch. Jean-Luc fought for years protectin' dese lands and we will not give 'em up easily. Dis ends tomorrow, dat I swear. But understand what we face." Remy paused and looked back over the plain below. "Will y' fight?"
The eldest warriors moved forward and stood beside their young chief. "De wells have dried up and de water dat's left has been poisoned. We'll fight and be proud t' stand beside y'. We can't let our families die like dis. We'll follow y' t' death if we must, taranis...an honorable death is better dan a lifetime of shame!"
The men let loose a cry and rallied together.
Remy caught sight of Bella as she stepped out of the roundhouse, pulling her cloak tight around her body, the cold wind blowing her blonde hair about her face. He took a deep breath and turned back to his men. Thunderer...I wish I had their confidence in me. "Go t' your families and enjoy dis night. We'll fight at dawn." Epona, protect us.
That night, Bella watched as her husband closed himself off from the world. She alone understood his pain and doubt. The men called him taranis, 'thunderer', but few knew his other power. The one that hurt him now.
"Remy?" She stood behind him and gently rubbed his muscular shoulders.
"I can feel deir fear, chèr. How can I protect 'em from dis?" Remy turned in his chair and captured her face between the palms of his hands. Stroking her cheek with his finger, he whispered, "How can I protect y'?"
Dipping her head down, Bella caressed his lips with hers and then pulled him into an embrace. "Shhh...De men believe in y'." She ran her fingers through his long auburn hair. "And I believe in y'. De gods gifted y' wit' powers, amour, f'r a reason. Jus' block out de fear and concentrate on what I'm feelin'...right now."
Remy reached out with his empathy and felt a wave of emotion. Faith. Devotion. Love.
Taking his hand in hers, she pulled him up and watched as the firelight cut across his handsome features. The uncertainty she saw behind those exotic black eyes haunted her. "Let's not waste dis night talkin' about what might happen. C'mere."
She placed her fingers over his warm lips to stifle his protest. "Please...let me help y' forget f'r jus' tonight."
When dawn broke over the mist covered hills and valleys, Remy stood before the gates of the town surrounded by the warriors, men and women alike, dressed in his chieftain's garb. His long auburn hair hung loose around his shoulders and his crafted, gold torque, a symbol of his status, was clasped firmly around his neck. He wore the green plaid cloak of his family and his father's sword hung from the leather scabbard at his side. Had this been summer, he and his men would have charged into battle in the tradition of their ancestors...naked. But the frigid winter air demanded tunics and trousers.
An elder man blew on a carnyx, and drew the attention of the people to their chieftain and his wife.
"Remember," Remy shouted, "dese men attacked our lands, killed y'r neighbors...our fathers. Remember, an honorable death is better dan a lifetime of shame!" The carnyx rang out three times. Belladonna, who stood next to her husband and chief, shouted out in her loud voice, "Are y' ready for war?"
"Aye," the men and women replied, "we're ready!"
Again Bella asked them, and for a third time. Three times the answer came back. "Aye, we're ready f'r war!" The carnyx sounded again and the gates opened. A raven flew overhead, a portent of death.
Victor Creed was up and about before dawn. All night long, the Roman sentries had kept watch and they were certain the battle would come today. The night had been quiet except for the distant shouts from the barbarians' camp.
Creed's slaves had woken him early, and he dressed quickly, swallowed a Roman breakfast- a drink of water- and his bodyguards helped him put on his armor. Outside his tent, there was a flash and a glitter as the soldiers took the covers off their armor and hurried into ranks.
The whole army stood in a great half-circle around the camp altar. Aquiliferi and other standard-bearers brought the standards close to the altar. The trumpets rang out in a special salute to their general as he came forward to sacrifice to Jupiter.
Victor poured oil and perfume on the sacred fire. Priests dragged a white ox forward, cut its throat and opened the body to inspect the inside. Heart, liver and guts were in the right places. The animal was healthy. The Romans would have the gods on their side in the battle. Victor smiled quietly; he no longer believed in such things, but his men did. A great cheer went up when they knew the omens were good and the army marched out to battle.
Victor was a general, a mutant. He had lived through countless battles over several centuries, and they all ended with similar results. Death, destruction, and pain. Immediately ahead, he spotted the enemy. Barbarians. Figures could be seen dancing and shouting, while women were screaming and waving lighted torches. Others came nearer cursing the Romans and putting spells on them. Some soldiers were frightened because they believed in magic, but their discipline and fear of their general held them firm.
Amongst the crowd, Victor spotted the chief. He was a handsome boy, proud and determined. And for a moment, he felt his pulse quicken. So it begins. Nothing excited him more than war and his feral bloodlust jumped to life. He would force the boy into submission, raze the town, and satisfy his inner animal.
Standing before such a sea of men, Remy felt the tremor of his men's fear ripple through him. Slamming up his shields, he turned to his men. "Don't let fear rule y' this day! For our fathers!" And he charged forward.
There was a furious fight, and for a moment the Celts swept over the Roman auxiliaries like a sea-wave rolling over a beach. Remy led the way, charging the Roman weapons, turning them against their makers. He fought by his wife, charging her arrows as she shot into the enemy ranks, blowing the armor from their bodies.
Even so the auxiliaries slowed the barbarians down. Victor ordered Syrian archers and slingers to fire as fast as they could at the savages and then retire behind the legion to reform. The Celts continued to push on, passing many of their fallen comrades and running toward the waiting legionaries. The Romans stood quite still, javelins ready in their right hands. A trumpet sounded. There was only thirty yards between the Celts and the short, stocky Romans. Every arm raised, javelins ready for throwing. The carroballistae men stood waiting, one man crouched over the firing lever of his weapon. Again the trumpet. Three thousand javelins and a hail of carroballista arrows blacked out the sky. Hundreds of Celts fell screaming.
A flash of metal as the legionaries drew their swords. The legion rushed forward perfectly in line. As the lines met the legion roared out its battle cry, "Jupiter! Jupiter!" Armored Romans began cutting and stabbing at the packed ranks of their enemies. On both sides men went down, trampled in the rush.
Victor forced his way through the mass of bodies, working his way toward the boy-chief. Another mutant…good, a challenge! Lunging from his horse with a feral growl, he tackled the Celt to the ground.
Remy felt the hit from behind. Twisting away from his attacker, he managed to escape from his grasp. The man was obviously one of their leaders, heavily armored and decorated. He was also gifted…or cursed by the gods. Large claws extended from his fingertips, and his amber eyes flashed with a sickening enjoyment, a lust for killing.
The two leaders attacked each other with a ferocity unseen before. To those around, it appeared to be a battle of titans. The young Celtic chief moved with an unearthly speed and accuracy, but the Roman general kept attacking. Each blow Remy landed seemed only to enhance the general's attack and his wounds healed before his eyes. How can y' beat a man who can't be hurt?
Bella paused in her attack, watching her husband fend off the Roman feral. While her attention was captured by the private battle before her eyes, she was struck by an arrow. It pierced her shoulder and the force of the blow knocked her off her feet.
Remy saw his wife fall.
Victor saw his moment of opportunity. Taking the hilt of his sword, he hit the boy on the back of his head. As darkness engulfed him, Remy heard Bella shout out his name. Then there was nothing but a void.
Remy was chained, pulled behind Victor's horse and forced to walk on foot back to the city they called home. He would never forget the horrors he saw back in his homeland after their defeat. And they called him a barbarian. He would never forgive himself for his failure and weakness. Never.
Victor looked over his shoulder at the defeated chief, his trophy. Pulling on the rope, he watched as Remy stumbled and nearly fell from exhaustion. "Don't die on me, boy. Y'll make a nice addition to my triumph."
Remy glared up at his captor. Although he didn't understand the language, he knew he didn't like the tone of the man above him. He was a monster. Rubbing the metal bracelet on his wrist, he tried to charge the object but nothing happened.
"Y' can't use yer powers, kid. That bracelet nullifies 'em." Creed explained, but noticed the confused look on the boy's face. "Y' don't understand a word I'm tellin' y', do y'? Doesn't matter. We'll take care of that soon enough."
Rome (4 weeks later)…
"Come along, dears. We can watch from the steps of the Temple of Roma."
Anna followed closely behind her father and brother, taking a seat on one of the marble steps. Her father had business to attend to on this day, but they had stopped near the Forum to watch the triumphal parade of General Creed. This was only her second visit to the capital city of Rome, having lived most of her life in the southern city of Stabiae.
"Rogue, move your head. I can't see!" Kurt complained from behind her. She glared back at her younger brother. Rogue…she had earned the nickname early in life due to her penchant for adventure. She hated being tied down to the laws and regulations of her father and society, unable to even leave her home without a male relative for an escort. What she would give for some freedom! But that would never be possible. She was already nineteen, long past the age for a husband. She suspected that was the very business that had brought them all to Rome today. The idea of tying herself to another man repulsed her, especially someone as formal and traditional as many of the men her father associated with. There had to be more to life.
The trumpets sounded and the sound reverberated throughout the city. Soldiers paraded down the street carrying the spoils of their wars in the north. Gold, silver, and fabrics overflowed from the carts and exotic animals were caged, proudly displayed by the legionaries. Rogue had never seen such a spectacle. Triumphs were few and far between and only occurred in Rome. This was her first.
Finally, General Creed came into view. He was standing in a gilded four-horse chariot, fully dressed in his decorated robes and medals. The sun glistened off the gold and created an almost divine aura around the man, but it wasn't the general that caught Rogue's eye. No, it was the man behind the chariot. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Standing tall despite the chains and shackles, he wore a green plaid cloak and leather trousers. His hair was long, much longer than any decent Roman would allow, and, given the attention he was receiving, it was clear he was a man of importance.
"Father, who is that man in chains?" Rogue asked.
Smiling down at his daughter, like one would a child asking an innocent question, he replied, "That man, my dear, was the chief of the northern Celts. General Creed truly is a marvel, finally bring the last of the northern resistance to their knees. Don't you agree?"
Rogue looked back to the general, but her attention was drawn to the other man behind him. "Why do they treat him like an animal? It's so inhumane."
Her father laughed. "Rogue, dear, that man is a barbarian…an animal. It only fits that he be treated like one. Now, enough talk about this. Let's enjoy the rest of the parade."
Rogue ignored her father and couldn't help but feel pity for the man. To lose one's freedom and be marched through a foreign city as some kind of spectacle…there couldn't be anything worse.
The cell was small and filthy, and the stench of death and decay permeated the walls. Rodents scurried about, looking for sustenance but filled themselves on the dried blood found on the floor. Remy, still chained, sat on the cold stones thinking over the events that led him to this place. He had always cursed his empathy, but now, without it, he felt so alone…empty, hallow.
He knew what his ancestors had meant by their creed, 'An honorable death is better than a lifetime full of shame.' He wished he had died on that battle field with his comrades. He should have joined them. His people were destroyed, his friends and Bella were dead. Now he was cursed to a lifetime of guilt and pain… a lifetime of shame.
Footfalls echoed through the dank prison, but stopped just outside his cell door. As the door opened, Remy rose to his feet to meet his latest tormentor, but he wasn't prepared for what emerged. Through the darkness of the cell, two shining red eyes met his.
"Now, my child, let us begin your training."
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think! For those of you waiting for the sequel of Savage Seas...it's coming very soon! I'll hopefully have the first chapter up next weekend.