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CIAN OF THE CHARIOTS

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Victoria Liss
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« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2009, 02:06:41 am »

 again, but not the remotest wilderness could be more lonesome and desolate.
   "Are they after us, I wonder?" queried Llywarch, with a smile; for armed and mailed men had no need to concern themselves at that season. It was comical to be wolf-hunted, with an emperor's despatches, into one of the great cities of the world.
   "Hardly," answered Cian. "It seems rather like the purposeless demon-hunting of old tales and winter nights. Listen. See."
   He pointed down obliquely to where that sinister hurrying chorus came up again from the slant of the farther side. Fancy and eye-straining gave them vision of dim, long, swollen figures, making forward ravenously. The lights of the villa were seen in sudden motion, and voices called with anxious inquiry and dismay. The horses meanwhile made wild haste down the road, the mere presence of the wolves being more than any whip or spur.
   Then from over the gulf came the scream of a child and a woman's call for aid, in evident extremity of need. They shouted back, and plunged down together, uncertain of obstacles, forcing the horses on as into the shock of battle. As they went they could hear before them exclamations of horror and repulsion, the child's broken wailing, and the ring of metal on stone; but no more call to them, for the woman knew they were coming.

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« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2009, 02:06:58 am »

Only as Cian sped up alone over the crest, a glad cry broke from her. He saw the sweep of a great weapon, and heard a brutish howl. Then his right wheel struck and shattered, the chariot spun round, pitching over, and he barely saved himself by a forward leap. That landed him among the already scattering pack, and his sword cut into them right and left, as he made his way to her.
   He had not, for long, the picture before him there which abode in memory always. Where some white goddess had toppled over in the ruin of the villa garden, on the tall pedestal the lady towered above her crouching sister, the over-heavy battle-axe shearing every way in her hands, a divine maid, the very genius of armed and wrathful protection.
   Instantly her enemies were gone. The mist of the deep hollow received them. With long breaths, she dropped her weapon behind her, and leaned back on the helve of it, unhurt, her brow smoothing itself, and a smile growing in her face, but weariness growing also.
   "I cannot tell you how I thank you," she said, with labor, as he came near, holding out hands of aid. "Go, Sylvia," she added faintly.
   Pretty Sylvia was still in the bewilderment of terror; but she glanced upward at her tall sister in new concern and surprise,--for how could weakness be there? Then she gave herself, nestling and shudder-

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« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2009, 02:07:09 am »

 ing, to the arms of the stranger. When he had set her down beside him, she remained watchful and silent, except for a word of persuasion,--"Aurelia! Aurelia!"--as he reached up his hands again.
   "I must be a Saxon this time, and rob the pedestal," said he reassuringly.
   She waved his hand aside with a smile, then laid her own on his shoulder to descend." I would rather not be pulled down and broken. That is the Saxon way," said she.
   But she lingered, swaying.
   He watched her, fearing a fall, and ready; yet answered," I do not carry my animosity so far. Though I have little love for Roman gods, old or new."
    "Then I will be Hecate no longer," she said, laughing weakly, and let herself down with a half spring.
   It was her utmost endeavor. As her feet touched the ground, she bent, and would have quite fallen, but for his arm thrown around her. She had no choice but to rest against him a moment.
   "The goddess of feebleness, if there ever was one!" she murmured ruefully.
   I am Cian Gwenclan," he said. "Rest easy. Breath and vigor will come again."
   Small wonder if he were not very eager for that revival, her face being very near his shoulder, her

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Victoria Liss
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2009, 02:07:22 am »

 form close against his own. Her imperial womanliness, unwillingly appealing, carried his whole nature by storm. In all his stirring life, Cian had never felt so almost fiercely happy.
   "Cian of the Chariots? Prince Cian of the golden mail, whom we have heard about?" she said after an interval; then she straightened herself, remembering that this knowledge had first come by touch. But she added frankly, "Before you spoke I knew you. My name you have heard. My father is Constantine the merchant, grandson of Constans, who was Cæsar, as you know. And to-night--but that does not matter. Our home is just above, the only one left near. But for you, the wolves would have torn us."
   There was an involuntary movement toward him, but she felt the little one pulling distressfully at her tunic.
   "What makes him smile so?" demanded Sylvia. "I don't like him to smile that way."
   She did not mean Cian, though some such odd notion at first came into his mind. Her gaze was on a dark wolf-form which lay twitching, too low for them to see plainly. Cian took up the axe, and ended it at a blow.
   "That was hardly needed," he said. "You should be a warrior maiden of olden time, such as the legends tell."

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« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2009, 02:07:42 am »

 "It was the weapon," she said. "I picked up that massive thing, as I hurried out after our truant."
   "Massive--yes! And I have borne arms up the hills by the Duglas, and in the deep sands of the Glem."
   By this time lights and voices were wandering anxiously. She called back to them. Cian added his voice, "Ho, Llywarch!" as they with Sylvia began moving away.
   For answer the horse of the prince of Argoed came and stood riderless before them. Cian gave a quick cry; then called vehemently, "Llywarch! Llywarch! Llywarch!"
   In the confusion of voices now centring on them he could not find that of his friend; but a sound of savage worrying came up out of the hollow. He wavered for a moment. "Go!" said she, and he began rushing down the slope. At a little distance the answer of Llywarch halted him; and as Cian turned aside, the two were together.
   "The child--the woman?" Llywarch demanded.
   "Safe,--but I feared"--
    "What, that the messenger of Arthur had gone to the wolves? No, man, I am all here--and rather more of me by weight than formerly. For I have been headlong into the mire, I promise you."
   "But what is that?" indicating the noise below.

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« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2009, 02:07:56 am »

 "I cannot say. Let us see."
   Guided by ear, they came presently on a clump of dark bodies in turmoil, working away mercilessly at something on the ground. Cian had drawn back his sword, when lantern-light shone on it and its living target. Several voices called on him to forbear. "They are our brave house-guards," Aurelia explained, as she joined them. "Off, Dorwach! Here, Juno!"
   They were beyond mistaking now. The body of the great mastiff was too thick and furry for any of his wild kin; and though the hound, his companion, was leaner and smoother, no wolf ever came thus gambolling about a mistress. Little Sylvia screamed, for there was blood all over their jaws, and the lamplight made it vivid, while their antics brought it very near.
   "One of the wounded enemy," said Llywarch, bending over something which they had left. "Served as Caowl, the woodlander, would serve a Saxon. I have no liking for that inhuman way."
   "The dogs have done well," said one of the attendants, in surly protest.
   "Well for dogs with wolves," replied Aurelia. " Not so well for men with men. You see," she added, turning to the gentlemen, "our people have no wish to be the thralls of sea-robbers."
   Llywarch was examining the dead wolf closely.

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« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2009, 02:08:21 am »


"A strong blow," said he. " I marvel the beast got so far. Shoulder bitten through from in front--blade-bitten. Chest laid half open. A strong blow--yet not a man's blow," he added, raising himself inquiringly.
   "I remember the frightful creature," said Aurelia, quivering a little. "He was the worst of them."
   "This is the lady whose father we were bidden to have speech with," said Cian, and presented his friend in due form.
   "Also," remarked Llywarch, "the lady who saved herself while two fighting men of Arthur's camp were making a poor pretence of coming to her aid." He drew his face down ruefully.
   "I was not stuck in a bog," observed Cian.
   For indeed all the upper part of Prince Llywarch was eloquent beyond expounding, the helmet, especially, being two or three of itself in mass, notwithstanding a continual dislodgement. The domestics began laughing. Even Aurelia half joined. "Come," said she, "we who caused your distress at least will relieve it. Surely you will go no farther now."
   Llywarch shook his head. "Our first charge is to deliver, somewhat within the gates," he said. "To our grief, we may not tarry--unless there be other noble damsels by the way who keep tryst with wild animals in the dark."

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« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2009, 02:08:46 am »

"You will find none," she said; "all is waste between here and the walls."
   "And you linger on with the wolves?"
   "We linger. But they rarely come ravening like this. It is held an evil sign."
   "Of the Saxon?"
   "So say our people; and there has been dreadful work eastward. However, by day all is yet safe here from man and beast. This is a rare place for play, and garden flowers run wild. No doubt Sylvia slipped off on some such quest, and lingered until the twilight surprised her. Was it not so, Sylvia?"
   The child began to whimper at the remembrance. "Let us go home; do let us go home," was her imploring cry.
   "Patience, darling. Yet I, too, think that would be well. Gentlemen, I urge no one from duty; but since you have errands with my father, we may perhaps hope to see you soon again."
   "But is he not at the city?"
   "Yes; and it is as well. Though if spared the wolf-howling and worrying"--
   "He enjoys other fraternal sounds. There they are again."
   From distant London angry calls came confusedly.
   "Yes," she replied with a sigh; "farewell, until you return--with my gratitude."

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« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2009, 02:09:04 am »

"You will find none," she said; "all is waste between here and the walls."
   "And you linger on with the wolves?"
   "We linger. But they rarely come ravening like this. It is held an evil sign."
   "Of the Saxon?"
   "So say our people; and there has been dreadful work eastward. However, by day all is yet safe here from man and beast. This is a rare place for play, and garden flowers run wild. No doubt Sylvia slipped off on some such quest, and lingered until the twilight surprised her. Was it not so, Sylvia?"
   The child began to whimper at the remembrance. "Let us go home; do let us go home," was her imploring cry.
   "Patience, darling. Yet I, too, think that would be well. Gentlemen, I urge no one from duty; but since you have errands with my father, we may perhaps hope to see you soon again."
   "But is he not at the city?"
   "Yes; and it is as well. Though if spared the wolf-howling and worrying"--
   "He enjoys other fraternal sounds. There they are again."
   From distant London angry calls came confusedly.
   "Yes," she replied with a sigh; "farewell, until you return--with my gratitude."

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« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2009, 02:09:05 am »

"You will find none," she said; "all is waste between here and the walls."
   "And you linger on with the wolves?"
   "We linger. But they rarely come ravening like this. It is held an evil sign."
   "Of the Saxon?"
   "So say our people; and there has been dreadful work eastward. However, by day all is yet safe here from man and beast. This is a rare place for play, and garden flowers run wild. No doubt Sylvia slipped off on some such quest, and lingered until the twilight surprised her. Was it not so, Sylvia?"
   The child began to whimper at the remembrance. "Let us go home; do let us go home," was her imploring cry.
   "Patience, darling. Yet I, too, think that would be well. Gentlemen, I urge no one from duty; but since you have errands with my father, we may perhaps hope to see you soon again."
   "But is he not at the city?"
   "Yes; and it is as well. Though if spared the wolf-howling and worrying"--
   "He enjoys other fraternal sounds. There they are again."
   From distant London angry calls came confusedly.
   "Yes," she replied with a sigh; "farewell, until you return--with my gratitude."

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« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2009, 02:09:45 am »

 "Ours, much rather," said Cian and Llywarch in a breath.
   As they spoke she turned away with her men. From the other side the princes' horses were brought. There was a saddle on Cian's already. It was bridled also. They regained the road easily, and pressed on again.
   "A surpassing woman!" commented Llywarch, after silence.
   "Imperial," assented Cian. "Hence our errand, it may be." The words had an ill taste evidently.
   "Cian," said Llywarch with seriousness, "it is hardly for us to judge. But the emperor will not, I deem, look outside of the house of Caradoc. He can very ill spare the right arm of his realm and host; but he knows if there were one man here such as she, London would count for Britain."
   "There is her father."
   "He is the last you should praise. Rome has gone. You cannot turn the stream backward. That is what Constantine seeks to do. Nevertheless, he may have a trial."
   But there was more against Constantine than his worship of old. He had thriven vastly in trade, whatever his claim by birth, beginning with hidden stores put by in the great exodus with the legions, to be found by those who knew. He could marshal wealth and the wealth-bringers mightily and with

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« Reply #26 on: December 20, 2009, 02:10:00 am »

 skill; and very proud he was of some resemblance in feature to that great Julius who crossed the Rubicon into empire. But the dread of loss came easily to him; and he had the trader's instinct to conciliate and bargain, rather than the iron hand of the soldier, holding its purpose with firm grip unto the end.

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« Reply #27 on: December 20, 2009, 02:10:19 am »

CHAPTER II

WITH THE GUARD OF THE GATE.

Of manly disposition was the youth.
                         --ANEURIN.

THE two travellers passed from the high ground to the causeway which pierced the strip of marsh that lay just beyond the city wall at and near the Ermine gate. The air was foul, the fog wrapping them closely. Dim forms, which might mean anything, even fancy, brushed by them. All sounds were muffled. Those ahead, though near, had seemingly grown more distant. The wall, when at last it loomed over them, was very welcome.
   Ascending a little, they entered a broad gateway. A light shone transversely. They saw before them the glint of crossing metal, and the two helmeted spearmen who thus barred their way. The customary challenge was given.
   "We are friends," answered Llywarch, "and glad enough to get in out of the corpse-breath. We are officers of Arthur the Emperor, too, no matter what we may look like in this guise."
   His eyes ran dismally over himself.

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« Reply #28 on: December 20, 2009, 02:10:45 am »


   "Moreover, we bear a letter from him to your city rulers," added Cian.
   The soldiers were opening the way, awed, yet grinning as often as their eyes met the figure of the miry Prince of Argoed; but one came forward, lantern in hand, with a light, quick step, at whose gesture the spear-points dropped again.
   "Your first words," he said, "would have let you through over willingly, for a British fighting man is of all men the most welcome just now. And I do not doubt you shall have the greater honor for slight delay. But this is matter of moment, it would seem, and must be referred to the captain of the guard. Call him;" and he turned to one of the men.
   They could see that he had a slight figure, unarmored, as though he had risen in haste to make inquiry; a young subaltern, it was plain, and of a type to hold boyishness well into riper years. Close-curling hair between red and gold, a light pointed mustache, an alert, intelligent face, a mantle of rich red stuff and tossing embroidery, a general impression of quick motion and brightness,--these made up the rest of the half-shadowed picture. All his attire ran very near a delicate foppery. A two-edged sword of the old leaf pattern hung sheathed from his side. His belt bore also a dagger and an elfin-like forester's horn.
   Cian looked him over, with sudden recognition.

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« Reply #29 on: December 20, 2009, 02:11:11 am »

    "I know you very well, Dynan, son of the Three Shouts; it seems, though, you do not remember me."
   Dynan's face lighted responsively. He stepped forward, offering his hand.
   "How should I know you," he answered, " without your chariot, and back yonder in the shadow. Moreover, you have thrown something around the natural golden glitter of you," as indeed the dense fog had prompted.
   "And this," he continued, "Llywarch of Argoed, surely!--in misfortune?" and he began to laugh.
   "Yes, Llywarch, who swam the Duglas with you to get at certain Saxons. He would like to swim a few more rivers just now. Known at present as Llywarch the Wallower."
   "We thought you had gone home," said Cian.
   "Rightly," answered Dynan. "But who could stay there? By the time all my neighbors had quarrelled with me because I wouldn't make fairy gold according to my lineage, and hadn't any coin of my own, I found it best to do my fighting farther away, in town-service.
    "And so you chose London!" suggested Llywarch disparagingly.
   Dynan raised his eyes with a quick movement. "Not first nor most wisely," said he. "I have eaten the bread of Caer Segeint the Beautiful. I have held

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