William Napier: The Judgement

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William Napier The Judgement
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    The Judgement
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The Judgement

William Napier


LIST OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

Characters marked with an asterisk were real historical figures. The rest might have been.

Aetius* – Gaius Flavius Aetius, born 398 in the frontier town of Silestria, in modern-day Bulgaria. The son of Gaudentius, Master-General of Cavalry, and himself later Master-General of the Roman Army in the West

Aladar – Hun warrior, son of Chanat, one of Attila’s eight generals

Amalasuntha* – only daughter of King Theodoric of the Visigoths

Andronicus – captain of the Imperial Guard, Constantinople

Arapovian – Count Grigorius Khachadour Arapovian, an Armenian nobleman

Ariobarzanes – Lord of Azimuntium

Athenais* – married to the eastern Emperor Theodosius II, and re-named Eudoxia

Attila* – born 398, King of the Huns

Bela – Hun general

Cadoc – a Briton, son of Lucius

Candac – Hun general

Chanat – Hun general, father of Aladar

Checa* – first wife of Attila

Chrysaphius* – a Byzantine courtier

Csaba – Hun general

Dengizek* – eldest son of Attila

Ellak* – son of Attila

Enkhtuya – a Hun witch

Galla Placidia* – born 388, daughter of Emperor Theodosius the Great, sister of Emperor Honorius, mother of Emperor Valentinian III

Gamaliel – an aged, well-travelled medical man

Genseric* – King of the Vandals

Geukchu – Hun general

Honoria* – daughter of Galla Placidia, sister of Valentinian

Idilico – a Burgundian girl

Jormunreik – Visigothic wolf-lord

Juchi – Hun general

Knuckles – baptised Anastasius, a Rhineland legionary

Leo* – Bishop of Rome

Little Bird – a Hun shaman

Lucius – also Ciddwmtarth, a British leader of his people

Malchus – a captain of cavalry

Marcian* – eastern Emperor, 450-457, married to Pulcheria

Nemesianus – a wealthy man of Aquileia

Nicias – a Cretan alchemist

Noyan – Hun general

Odoacer* – a Gothic warlord

Orestes* – a Greek by birth, Attila’s lifelong companion

Priscus of Panium* – a humble scribe

Pulcheria* – sister of Theodosius II

Romulus Augustulus* – the last emperor

Sabinus – Legionary Legate of the VII at Viminacium

Sangiban* – King of the Alans

Tarasicodissa Rousoumbladeotes* – Isaurian chieftain, also known as Zeno

Tatullus – First Centurion of the VII at Viminacium

Themistius* – an orator

Theodoric* – King of the Visigoths, 419-451

Theodoric* – Visigothic prince, eldest son of King Theodoric

Theodosius* – eastern Emperor, 408-450

Torismond* – Visigothic prince, son of King Theodoric

Valamir – Visigothic wolf-lord

Valentinian* – western Emperor, 425-455

Vigilas* – a Byzantine courtier

PART I


The Fury


1

MARGUS FAIR

The southern banks of the Danube, AD 449

A morning in early summer. The great river meandering slowly through the rich Moesian plains and eastwards to the Euxine Sea. A patchwork of ploughland and meadow, and further away from the town, blossoming orchards and copses of ancient woodland. The smaller River Margus flowing down northwards from the hills to join the majestic Danube.

Darting over the surface of the water, the bright green metallic flash of damselflies, and columns of tiny waterflies rising and falling in the warming summer air. Willows along the banks of the river and alders beside the damp streambeds. Black poplars releasing their fluffy white seeds in clouds, landing and revolving and floating on downstream. Minnows flashing and darting in shoals, trout in among the brown boulders, beautiful grayling. Nodding kingcups reflected in the water, and the meadows all around scattered with the yellow of marsh marigold and yellow flag. No sound but the wind rustling the reeds, or the single peep of a duckling as it raced over the water back to its mother, beating its stubby little wings to no effect.

Riverine nature so peaceful and serene on this morning in early May, that for a brief moment you might think yourself back in Adam’s Eden, long before the Fall.

And then the shadow of a heron over the waters, cruising in silent and low, its cold and passionless yellow eyes swivelling downwards in search of prey.

Come closer to the little town of Margus with its ancient walls and its cathedral tower with its solitary iron bell, and you hear the sound of human bustle and chatter. There are naked children laughing and splashing in the shallows, brown and shiny as pebbles, mischievously opening the sallow-wood fish-traps and letting the fish swim free. There is laughter on the roads, and then in the meadows stretching up to the walls of the town itself, laid out in many colours and resounding with the languages of many different peoples – the great and celebrated Margus fair.

A vast, rowdy, polyglot encampment, teeming with energy, enterprise and greed. Open-sided canvas tents and pied awnings and stalls of carved and painted wood. People buying and selling with clacking tongues and a whole grammar of gestures and winks and hand signals. Buyers slowly producing worn leather purses from inside their robes, and sellers biting coins to test their worth – plenty of bronze coins around that have been washed with arsenic to make them pass for silver. Fur merchants from the far north, from beyond the Roman Empire, selling bearskin and marten, beaver and sable. Bright-eyed songbirds whistling in their osier cages. Everywhere the savour of smoking fish and roasting meat, and girls selling slugs of wine straight from the barrel in wooden cups. More elaborate inns and taverns under canvas. Pickpockets, of course, preying on the drunk and unwary, and women looking for husbands or at least money, walking light-stepped and lazy-eyed, swaying their hips between the groups of men.

Further off, the warm ripe smell of livestock in wooden corrals. Cattle dealers and sheep sellers communicating in their secret language and occult numbers, with barely discernible nods and winks for deals. And the air everywhere filled with greetings and curses, jests and lewd remarks, the high piping cries of excited children, the cackle of geese, and a single screaming monkey in a cage. From the land of the Nubians, so the monkey-seller said, without any great conviction. The monkey reached out its paw and pulled the hair of unwary bystanders. And all this ripe human chaos under the supposed regulation of a handful of frontier troops from the towering legionary fortress of Viminacium, ten miles east.

There was a girl there, a gentle, dreamy girl with a hare-shot lip, because a hare had walked across her mother’s path when she was pregnant with her. So they said. She carried a yoke of wooden pails and sold goat’s milk by the cupful, but she was not in truth a bold or assertive seller and she made little money. She too frequently gave cupfuls of milk away to hungry-eyed, plaintive children pestering her. When she returned at the day’s end, her mother would scold her for not having sold enough, accusing her of daydreaming her days away. And scold her even more for not having found a husband to take her off her poor old mother’s hands.

She disliked jostling crowds, and was drawn to the edge of the fair where the gaudy tents and stalls gave way to open meadows, and then the low line of the hills to the west, and the jut of Mons Aureus, the mountain of gold, with its fabulous mines. The vaults of Viminacium were full of gold, so they said. When it was transported down the great imperial trunk road to the emperor in Constantinople, it went with an escort of a thousand men. And the emperor… the girl always imagined him as made of gold himself, seated on his high throne covered in gold leaf, like a statue, immobile, unapproachable. A living god.

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