Dear readers, tonight with us is Artorius – the commander of Roman Britannia at the close of the 6th century CE.
Although the circumstances of how we learned about him, and how we came to know his story, are tied to a gruesome modern day murder and missing persons case, there is no doubt in our minds about the veracity of his story.
He is here to tell us about life in 6th century Britannia, and of his adventures.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
My early years were spent in Rome, though I have very little memory of it, except the heat and the smells of unwashed bodies and dirt intermingled with the scent of jasmine and Rose oil. My father was a commander in a faraway place called ‘Britannia’ and my mother missed him so badly; she made the journey to be near him.
The differences were immense. The weather being one of them. Within two years, mother died and I suffered badly, but survive. The other was the people. They hated us, but kept their mouths shut in a Roman’s company, but I learned that their eyes could not hide the truth. Even after all these centuries, the native people regarded anyone of Roman descent to be truly evil. We were warned never to venture far alone and when my father was granted lands further north near an old Roman command known as ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ I went with him. Here the hatred was palpable and I feared those who painted themselves blue and cursed us from their hills. But I also learned to live with them and slowly, over time, many came to accept us and I found myself surrounded by friends from all walks of life.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
My favourite toy was my pony, named ‘Celsus’ which means ‘tall’ in Latin. She had slightly longer legs which seemed a little out of proportion to the rest of her, but I loved her from the moment my father gave her to me as a foal. I helped train her, fed and watered her, cleaned up her mess and groomed her and when it was time to ride her, I fell off countless times as she bucked and danced around to free herself of this unusual burden. However, I persevered and eventually, Celsus became obedient and trust grew.
My most treasured memory is of our first ride together. Her long legs flew across the vast fields of Britain, faster than any other pony. She was sadly missed when old age took her from me eleven years ago. I had become too big to ride her, after four years together, but she remained within my father’s stables, where I continued to love and care for her.
What do you do now?
Now I am the commander of this land. I was granted more lands following the death of my father, and my father’s castle was allowed to be improved and fortified, creating a stronger fort to hold off any invasions. The King Hussa, ruler of Bernicia granted me this not long before his death in 592. Aethelfrith, his successor, conceded that I had earned the right to rule my lands and gave me his permission to keep order within his boundaries. There are many who invade this land. Saxons, mercenaries, Picts, they all come to claim a foothold here and have no care whom they hurt or kill in the process. I and my men keep peace here and defend the innocent people within this land.
My father, Horus, was killed trying to keep the peace and I swore that I would remain. Besides, I have many friends in Britain and nothing in Rome. I do not consider myself Roman anymore. I have not done so for such a long time. I am of Britain.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
We have a new guest within my walls. We came upon her being mistreated by a group of mercenaries, drunk and looking for sport. We were patrolling the borders of my land when we saw them chasing her. She was on foot, they were on horseback – she didn’t stand a chance. Besides, one woman against six drunk and fully armed mercenaries is hardly fair. It seemed only right to even the odds and find out why they were on my lands. Sadly, my men were a little too enthusiastic to keep any of the men alive, but we did save the poor woman who was in a bad way. She was brought back to my home.
What did you first think when you first met this stranger?
A strange lady indeed. Her body is covered with extraordinary markings, pictures I believe, though I have not seen them for myself. She told me her name is ‘Aemilia’ a Latin name, yet I would swear there is nothing Roman about her. She claims to be the niece of my wise woman, Ayleth, another strange lady my father rescued many years before, but I do not believe they are kin. I believe they are united in something, but not blood.
Aemilia’s strange behavior and speech became even more so, when she showed a deadly form of fighting that I had only heard rumours of. Using her hands and legs, she killed men and badly hurt others. I have asked her to teach my men these killer moves…
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
The amount of invading Saxons makes my stomach churn with anxiety for our people. They have no honour and kill women and children without mercy. I fear their horde will become so great, we cannot hold them back for long and this country will be over-run. I do not fear for my own life, you understand? I am fearful for those I hold dear to me.
What is the worst thing in your life?
The almost constant fighting. My sword is red with blood almost every week fighting either a band of mercenaries, Saxons, Danes or Picts. I yearn for peace. We had such a thing for a few years and life was good and plenty and I considered taking a wife, but it didn’t hold and the fighting began again. My potential bride moved away.
What is the best thing about it?
The people within my home. I consider them all a part of my family. Without each and every one of them, the castle could not function, and I need them all, from the kitchen maids to the blacksmith. The bakers, to the soldiers who help fortify this land.
And the fresh air! The land stretches as far as the eye can see. Vast areas of grass and heather with hills and mountains in the distance. Sometimes it feels as if we are the only people living here, for a time at least, and during those moments of calm and peacefulness, it is a glorious living.
Tell us a little about your friends.
My dearest friends are those men who fight alongside me. Saving my life on a number of occasions. Tristan is my closest friend. We are of the same age. His family was slaves here to my father, but Tristan refused to bow to anyone. His fighting skills became obvious as a young boy as he and I were often fighting one another! However, by our teenage years, he preferred the company of animals; often healing them, and they became tame to him. Yet, his skills with a blade are dangerous and now he has his damned wolf with him everywhere he goes, no one would be stupid enough to challenge him! Women adore him, men love him, but he cares for none of it – until Aemilia came into our lives.
There is also Brom, a giant who loves his wife and his children, and yet would decapitate a man with his bare hands if he wanted! He was raised in the North but never speaks of it.
Merek is my dear friend. Many would consider him the ‘gentleman’ of our group. The ladies swoon over him and he obliges them, loving every one of them as though there is no other – and they let him! He says no woman could ever persuade him to marry, but we tell him he hasn’t met the right lady yet!
Rulf is the quiet one. A poet perhaps, he is shy and timid around women, but a killer nonetheless. His skills with the dagger are legendary and swift.
Of course, I must include Ayleth here, for she is and always has been, a true friend to me. Her knowledge and healing skills are legendary and people come for miles to seek her help. She has the gift of premonition and has spoken truth on many occasions, saving us from slaughter as we were prepared for their coming. Although she is a mystery, I had always trusted Ayleth and loved her, yet, since Aemilia’s coming, I sense a change in her, a deep sadness that she’d hidden well.
Any romantic involvement?
I have loved many women over the years, but any chance of romance was always secondary to fighting off the invasions. I am at this moment considering an Earl’s second daughter, though I will not divulge her name, yet.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Saxons! One in particular is named Sagarus. His cruelty knows no bounds. He has put to death thousands of Britain’s as he’s marched through the country. He has made his home not thirty miles from mine, near the coast. I know he awaits more of his kinsman. A battle is coming and both of us will be on that field to win, or die.
What are your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
My favourite drink is mead. We have a monastery not too far from here. The monks use honey to create this delightful drink. I go through it far too quickly! Colour would be green. Same as natures colour that God has created for our pleasure and to relax? I do not have that luxury, though when I find time is idle, if a woman is willing …
What does the future hold for you?
I try not to look towards the future. It is rare for old age to seep into the bones. Life here is fast, simple, but lived completely. If I were to know that peace shall reign and I can leave my fighting days behind – then I should take the Earl’s daughter, make her mine and watch my children grow. I do not yearn for more power or lands, I have enough. What I yearn for, is an impossible dream.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
The Saxons are coming…
P.J. Roscoe is the author of four novels so far, the first book in a series for young children and a number of short stories in various anthologies.Her main genres are supernatural, historical thrillers for adults, faerie stories for children and psychological mind benders for short stories!
She live in North Wales, U.K with her husband of 24 years, their daughter who has autism and dyspraxia, a dog, three cats and fish. She walks in nature every day, and yes, she does believe in faeries! She works with angels and spirits to help lost souls find peace and have seen ‘dead people’ from an early age – so very little frightens me, except human greed.
You can find Artorius on the pages of Between Worlds.
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