The trail of greenish light cut through the night sky. It was always the same when they came. The light was the messenger of their arrival. Before long, their ships would land, their troops would depart, and Miriam’s people would be forced to empty the warehouses that they had so diligently stocked up.
Miriam swung down from the treetop perch and landed on the forest floor. Leaves crunched under bare feet as she ran towards her village. She paused at the tree line just before the clearing. Beyond stood her village, a small collection of huts clustered around a bend in the river. The dock was nestled in the bend, though it was only used for the Romanus.
The other villagers had seen the green lights in the sky and had gathered outside, staring up towards the heavens. Miriam followed their gaze and watched as the wooden Romanus ship descended from the stars. It landed gently in the waters of the river as several men from the village ran to extend the walkway from the dock to the deck.
Once the ship was tied off, a Romanus official stepped forth, flanked on either side by a Praetor Guard. Their bronze breastplates shone in the moonlight while their capes fluttered in the gentle summer breeze, the red of the official contrasting with the purple of his guard. Miriam was too far away to hear the proclamation that the official was making, but she assumed that it was the standard address.
Every month since anyone could remember, the Romanus descended among them demanding tribute in the form of ore and precious gems. Something was off about this month’s visit, however. The villagers seemed tense as they listened to the official. Miriam also realized that the Romanus only brought one ship as opposed to the several they normally used to carry off her people’s hard earned goods.
The official had finished speaking and stared down the walkway at the surrounding villagers. There were shouts of confusion and anger from the small crowd. He listened with a look of mild disinterest before turning and stepping back onto his ship. As soon as he cleared the walkway, soldiers moved down the wooden path from the ship to the village. Cries of panic erupted as the soldiers began entering houses and villagers ran off in any direction they could.
Miriam watched in silent horror as fires lit the summer night. Screams of pain filled the air only to be cut off suddenly. Forcing herself to back away further into the tree line, she turned and ran. She did not stop running for seemed an eternity. The screams had faded away, but the glow of her village burning still glowed in the night.
* * *
Dawn was less than an hour away. Miriam had finally forced herself to calm down and turned back towards what was left of her village. Smoke still drifted lazily from the charred remains of huts. In the center of the village, several tents had been erected. The soldiers seemed to have made camp in the middle of their carnage.
Miriam felt her blood boil at the sight. How could they be so callous?
She was pulled from her thoughts by the sounds of people nearby. Silently, she crept towards the sound and discovered a few survivors from the village.
“Liam? What happened? Is there anyone else?”
A tall lad, barely younger than Miriam but still not old enough to hunt alone, sighed heavily. “They said that the empire no longer needed us. Our land is to be given to a new Proconsul who would settle it with citizens. We were the only ones who made it out.”
Miriam was shocked at the news. With a simple declaration, her people were killed in order to make way for a new settlement. All that was left of her village was a small group of barely more than children.
“Very well. If they think that we can be gotten rid of so easily, I guess that we will have to show them their mistake.” She nodded to herself as much as the band of survivors. “Listen up. You all can stay here and try to hide from the Romanus or you can come with me and fight back.”
“But how?” The question came from a smaller lad in the back. “There are thirty soldiers out there and only eight of us.”
“It’ll be ok, Sean.” Miriam smiled at the boy. “We only need to get to their ship. With that, we can get others, like us, and strike back at them at our own choosing and when they are weak. The soldiers are all asleep, so we can easily board the ship and take care of whoever is left on board.”
There was a murmur of agreement from the group before Miriam turned and led them back to the village.
She was surprised how easy it was to move past the sleeping soldiers. By the looks of the empty wineskins lying about, they had celebrated their “victory” over her people. Miriam silently pointed at Liam and then at the weapons left near the tent’s entrance. Nodding, Liam took Sean to gather the gladii and spears before joining the others on the dock.
Boarding the ship, they found only a handful of sailors. They were all asleep on the deck and were easily taken care of by the newly armed group. There was a little fumbling as Miriam’s new crew tried to make ready to sail. Their boats only traveled the waters, not the stars. Fortunately, the process of raising the ship into the air was intuitive enough and done without raising an alarm from the soldiers on land.
As they sailed into the morning sun, Miriam turned towards the cabin. Surely the official who brought the news was in there. She approached the door, gladius in hand. Little did the Romanus official know that he was not to survive the maiden voyage of The Galiani Revenge.
Miriam opened the door to the cabin and found the official still asleep in her new bed. She walked slowly towards him, a moment of doubt crossing her mind. Looking over her shoulder at the shrinking image of her village, Miriam tightened her resolve. Sometimes, one just needs to raise the black flag.
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