Aquila:Rhine River Patrol - A Meeting

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This article is from the Nova Roma publication "Aquila".
Rhine River Patrol - A Meeting
Rhine River Patrol Story Index.

A Meeting---

The Principia (headquarters for the Shipyard and Classis Germania sat on the bald crown of a second hill which overlooked the shipyard and also provided a long distance view of the extensive stretch of the Fluvius Rhinus as it emerged from the presently leaf-denuded forest upriver, to the west where it finally disappeared into the muddy reed-choked delta area far downriver. Beyond the delta in the distance a sliver of blue water could be seen in the early spring dawn against the dark bowl of the sky to the westward. The bright blue of the open sea, in contrast to the muddy brown of the Rhinus served to reassure Marcus Vindex of the presence of the Mare Germanicus beyond the river delta. Somehow such an assurance was comforting to him. Marcus was used to the open ocean, and still felt crowded by the banks of the Rhinus, even as broad as the river was.

The hill had been shorn of most of it's trees some time ago, but two remained in front of the Principia. Their knarled trunks and dark green leaves seemed to soften the brightly painted outlines of the Principia building and shaded the entrance from the heat of Sol at midday.

Marcus reached the top of the timber and stone steps and walked into the wide smooth stone area that lay in front of the Princpia Offices. The Fleet Praefectus was a popular Senator and used to the very best that could be provided. This apparently included the unusual and extensive stone carving that graced the Principia building and presumably his private quarters as well. It was said that his personal value was significant so that he could well afford these extra touches of elegance.

Marcus walked briskly across the broad, smooth flagstones, not wishing to be late for the morning report, but also unwilling to be counted among the anxious hangers-on to the Praefect's skirts. He approached the steps leading to the entrance to the offices where two legionaries stood guard with Pilum, Gladius and Scutum. Their armor shown brightly as could be expected here in the Principia. Above them in twin oval niches set into the inner wall of the principia were two very ornately decorated half-life size statues of Mars the God of War / Agriculture and Neptune the God of Water and the Sea, both of which also stood guard over the Honors / Eagles gathered within the inner Principia temple.

The guards snapped to attention as he entered the gateway, flanked as he did so, by the two heavy doors with their deeply incised and detailed carving also indicative of the Gods Mars and Neptune. Marcus was of the opinion that Neptune's place in the outer niche should probbly be substituted by the Rhinus River Spirit, since the influence of Neptune on the Rhinus Fleet seemed to be far less than that of the Spirit of the Fluvius Rhinus. That particular spirit seemed to be most capricious and destructive, with it's rumbling and quaking during the fridgid winter months when ice lay thick upon it's surface, it's wild and far-reaching floods in the season following the cold months. Even now the level of the river was rising as indicated by the depth poles set in the river by the piers, and some of the "fabri" (engineering specialists) were shoring up and strengthening the dockage and piers along the river bank, that the increased current was already threatening. Add to these concerns the submerged sand bars that mysteriously appeared and disappeared each year, the strong eddies which were a constant problem for oared ships in the bends of the river, never in the same place twice, and finally the heavy waterlogged timber debris, that floated just below the river's surface or which was imbedded in the bottom of the river waiting for the opportunity to punch a hole in a careless or unsuspecting vessel.

The fleet's "gubernators" (river pilots) would soon be out on the river (his own assigned pilots included) updating the above changing conditions and trying at the very least to keep abreast of the Rhinus Spirits and the seasonal changes that they wrought upon the Fluvius. The ice damage each year along the river which was obviously done by an angry river god was very extensive. He hurled his "glacies" (ice) weapons against against any man-made structures or improvements along the river, and these attacks were extremely effective as well as desructive. As if that were not enough, the debris from the destroyed structures now added to the river god's arsenal propelled by the wildly strong river current, turned this broken material in it's turn, to be a further weapon to be used againt installations downstream. However, his view of the Religio was considered to be somewhat strange among his friends and superiors, so he kept his opinions and thoughts of such behind his teeth.

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