August 2758 auc  
Fr. Apulo Caesare C. Popillio Laena consulibus

The Danube Gorge

Letters of Lucius Spurius Pomonius #4

Rhine River Patrol

The Original Roman Holiday (Serial I)

Webster A.A.R.


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Rhine River Patrol

He awoke to the heavy bumping of the wagon. His arm was on fire with pain, and his mouth was as dry as dust. He was very hungry and his body hurt all over. The wagon's jolting eased and he could hear the
splashing of water as the wagon moved through it. Looking through a large crack in the bottom of the wagon bed, he could see water beneath him, and shortly the wagon began to tilt upward as the sound of the disturbed water ceased.

If his surmise was correct, they had just crossed the stream which led to the Rhine River itself. This stream was almost a mile from the town on the Rhine where he had been brought as a new slave so long ago. Was it really so long? He tried to focus on this idea. It must have been at least 100 days, perhaps as many as 200, certainly not more than that since the slaves in the mines did not survive much longer than that.
He had lost count of the days despite his vow not to do so, and now he was faced with an additional problem. He could not go into town, as the news would have gotten there before him, and the slavers and their minions would be on the lookout for him. But the stream offered a way to the Rhine itself, and once on the Rhine, it might be possible to get far
enough away from this area to seek aid. His only real problem was the drainage of his energy. He knew that he didn't have a lot more to give, but whatever he had must at this moment be used to move away from a certain re-capture and a very unpleasant death as a punishment for the lives that he had taken in his escape.

The wagon was slowing at the top of the incline. This would be his only chance to get off this hay-wagon without hurting himself any worse.
He dug through the hay feverishly, until he reached the end of the bed. The wagon was now only moving at slow walk as the Oxen moved the wagon
up the slope from the river. He could hear the wagon-driver shouting at the oxen. That idiot's noise would mask any sounds as he rolled off
the back of the wagon. Holding his injured arm tightly he eased himself to the edge of the wagon-bed and hesitating just a moment rolled off the wagon onto the ground.

His body hitting the deep cut ruts in the road filled his whole being with pain. He hoped with all his might and called upon all his gods that there not be another wagon immediately behind the one on which he had been riding. The shock and the pain of the fall stunned him for a moment and he lay in the muddy road, trying again to clear his head and
focus on his next immediate action. He was just about done for, and he knew it. What reserve of energy he had possessed before and during his
escape were now completely exhausted. He was so dizzy he could not stand, and the world reeled around him as he lay in the roadway. Slowly he
rolled over and managed to get to his hands and knees. He began to crawl across the road ruts and stones towards some heavy brush at the roadside. At the edge of the road lay an old branch which had fallen from the huge oak tree above him. He managed with the branch's support to get to his feet , and he lurched into the brush. The old branch which was pretty dry and old could not stand that kind of treatment and it snapped under him. His fwd momentum carried his well into the brush and his head struck one of the knurled roots just above the ground at the tree's base. There was a shock and flash of pain and light, and the world went dark. However, he had succeeded for the most part in concealing himself in the brush. However, his rawhide slipper-shoe, had come off his foot in his last struggle and now lay close by the brush on the side of the roadway.

The two horsemen moved slowly down the road away from town in the cool shadows of the forest. The road was clear now except for the oxen-drawn hay wagon which had passed them just moments before. One of the horseman was a tall man of medium years, dressed well , and upright in is saddle. The other was a woman of middle age, and comely features. She was dressed in the well patched clothing of a slave and had over her shoulders an old blanket-cloak to ward away the chill of the approaching evening.


These two, one the slave owner (although reluctantly) and the other a slave (also very reluctantly), neither of them seemed to be able to
reach an agreement with their situation. The gentleman did not want the slave but had acquired her in an argument with her previous owner. The
woman injured in that argument had withdrawn even further into herself, and although she had recovered from her wounds, she had hardly said a
dozen words to her owner since her recovery from the wounds sustained in the argument. She had been dutiful in her tasks, as she saw them, which was very uncomfortable for a man who was used to doing for himself. Her silence frustrated him, and he had hoped that a ride into the country might loosen the infernal woman's tongue, but the hoped for result had not come about and the gentleman was about to give it up as a bad job or at least a futile attempt.

He turned to the man, and said," We'll go on to the stream ahead and water the animals and then return to the city."

The woman merely looked up at him momentarily and then resumed her dull-eyed stare before her.

"Well, if you cannot reply, at least pull your cloak closer about you." the man said gruffly.

The woman merely shrugged and pulled her tattered robe closer about her shoulders. The man looked away in utter frustration.

They approached the stream and the muddy part of the road leading up from it, The man guided his horse to the side of the road to avoid the worst of the mud. As the man moved his mount down to the edge of the stream, he heard the creak of leather behind him and turned to see the woman dismounting.

"What are you about woman?" said the man in an exasperated voice.

"I am saving my master some few coins, as I am sure that he wants me to do," came the reply .

The man surprised at the response, said." what the devil are you talking about?"

The woman pointed to an old , muddy and badly worn slipper-shoe made of what looked like rawhide. "I will save this slipper and make one like
it to save you a few dinari." Her attitude was challenging and her eyes flashed with determination as she spoke.

"Oh, leave the filthy thing in the road, and I will buy you a new pair of slippers, when we return."

"i don't want a new pair of slippers," spit the woman, "I only want what I deserve, and this muddy , used sipper is all I want from you." Her
voice had raised at the exchange and the man, tired of this argument which had gone on for days, simply shrugged his shoulders and turned toward the stream.

"Commander," the woman said, her voice now much moderated and hesitant. It was the first time that she had called him by his title. He turned in the saddle. The woman holding the old slipper in her hand pointed to the thick brush along the road, under a large spreading oak tree.
"There is a foot and leg here as well as the slipper," she said in a small voice,"what shall we do?''

(To be continued)

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