The Argument

When I first started this blog – God, more than a year ago, some time in 2015 I think – the original idea was to promote my book, Raiding Cooley which I published as an E-book back then.  I confidently expected to start on my next masterpiece almost immediately.  Raiding Cooley CoverSee how wrong I can be!  Anyway, this blog thingy morphed into different paths, some, or all, of which I hope to continue pursuing. However, the consequent result was that I never got around to doing any new creative writing – i.e. another blockbuster!  Ideas did float around in my head, sequels and prequels and so on but it was always too easy to find a reason to do something else.  I suppose a story depends upon a character and the plot natuarlly evolves from what the character does and what happens to the character. So, here is my initial draft of God knows what – an initial character.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, complaints … anything?  Anyone?

An Introductory Paragraph

406 A.D. Roman rule is collapsing in Britannia as the legions are recalled to continental Europe. Barbarian tribes assail the Empire from all sides. Maewyn, scion of proud Brythonic stock long accustomed to Roman rule, refuses to assume his father’s role as Decurion, the “exactor” of taxes from the local Brythonic people.The scene takes place in a Roman style villa in the far western Brythonic province of Britannia.

The Argument

‘You know what your father needs’ Conchessa paused until her son looked up at her. ‘You do, don’t you?’ she insisted, adjusting her toga.

‘I told you before. I am not going to collect the taxes. I don’t care about being Decurion, do you not hear me? I refuse to do Rome’s dirty work.’

Contemptuous of both his parents’ Roman status and their newly adopted Christian piety, Maewyn glared at his mother opposite the atrium fountain.

‘Your father will explain everything later to you,’ Conchessa continued quietly.

‘There is nothing to explain.’ Maewyn snapped. ‘Do I have to tell him how things are here, in this far-western province of a crumbling Empire?’

”Don’t talk like that to your father. If Calpurnius becomes a deacon in the State religion, his property and responsibilities are passed on, in their entirety to you, his son.’

*

Maewyn pulled the copper goblet towards him, cradling it in his pale hands and smelling it, before looking up at his father.

‘Don’t you understand?’ Calpurnius demanded. ”The legate is insisting taxes must be collected as usual. Do you think I want to give up all of this?’

He gestured at the tilled fields stretching from the walls around the villa down the hillside, bounded by the blue line of the sea below them.

‘The legate! All the Belgae and Germania auxiliaries in Seguntium are being recalled, even now.’ Scornfully, Maewyn pushed the goblet away. ‘Roman power is collapsing along our coast, and everywhere else.”

‘Listen to your father.’ Conchessa pleaded. ‘Is there anything that you ever wanted that has not been provided for? Ask yourself, where does our wealth come from?’

‘I don’t care where it comes from. You want it, not me. And besides,’ Maewyn spat scornfully, ‘Barbarian raids are increasing. Soon there will be no-one to tax and nobody to give it to, despite your new religion.’

‘Don’t talk to me like that, you ungrateful whelp” Calpurnius shouted, his face purpling with rage. ‘We are Roman citizens and we have a responsibility to our position as Decurion and to Emperor Honorius.’

‘I thought we were proud Ordovices, the last tribe in Britannia Prima to have withstood the might of the Romans?’ he demanded of his father. Standing up abruptly, his stomach roiling in fear at his defiance, he pushed his stool back so that it crashed on the mosaic floor.

Going back to the Roots

Given that the original reason for this blog thing was to blow my own horn with regard to the book I wrote and self published on Smashwords – and yes, it is still available on Amazon but I have no idea where that money goes as I seem to have failed to set up a banking account with them.  Anyway, never mind, live and learn.  So, to return to origins – this blog thingy was meant to be about my book Raiding Cooley (or Cúailnge, if you prefer) in particular and other writings that I come across, do myself, admire and so on.  In that vein, here is a scene I have been working on recently.  It is going to be part of something much larger and this scene takes place fairly near the start of a much longer story.  Anyway, comments, likes, dislikes, objections, that sort of thing – basically any feedback at all would be most gratefully accepted.  I can’t really give you any more as this is very much part of a work in progress and I might never actually use this scene.  Wonderful, ain’t it!

The Argument

” You ungrateful whelp, you will do as I say,” Calpurnius crashed his gnarled fist down on the polished table, making the goblets jump. “Don’t you understand what this means to us all? Do you think I want to give up all of this?” he shouted, gesturing at the tilled fields stretching from the walls around the villa down the hillside bounded by the blue line of the sea below them.

Maewyn stood up abruptly, pushing his stool back roughly so that it crashed on the mosaic floor. “You can’t make me do this. I don’t care, it’s your job – not mine,” but even as his stomach roiled in fear at this rebellion, he could hear the petulance in his own voice and was ashamed of himself.

Ignoring his mother reproachful looks, he brushed past his father and rushed out of the villa, past the fountain in the vestibule.

His parents’ Pelagian Christianity meant nothing to him and Maewyn looked with youthful scorn upon his father’s attempt to evade his duties as a tax collector and councillor by taking shelter in his relaxed form of religious orders. Certainly he had no intention of assuming his father’s harsh and ruthless role exacting taxes from the local Ordovices people rather than making up the deficit from his own land and slave holdings. Nevertheless, he had to admit that his family’s way of life was comfortable and he enjoyed the respect his father and his father, Potitus, before him had garnered over the years, landowners who had long accepted Roman ways and customs. Their cultured way of life was in sharp contrast to the local Brythonic tribes from whom they exacted the heavy tax that Rome demanded from its provinces and localities. The whole idea of collecting taxes for the Romans was pointless now that the empire was collapsing, Maewyn told himself. Even the legate, Stilicho would be recalled to Rome shortly despite what he had overheard the previous night.

“You know the law” Stilicho had insisted, enjoying the power his position afforded him in Britannia Prima. The Roman was powerfully built with blunt, heavy features, thick dark hair swept back from a broad forehead above a long bulbous nose creased heavily at the bridge. His thin mouth was accentuated by the persistent shadow on his square jaw, despite the ministrations with an obsidian blade. Hard, grey eyes had assessed, understood and despised the fawning attempts of Calpurnius and Conchessa to distract him with a beaker of the dark yellow wine he favoured.

“But you know these raids on the coastal districts make collecting the taxes difficult,” Calpurnius had pleaded. It was true, Goidelic raids were becoming more frequent as Roman power declined in the west and although the last stronghold of the Celts on the island of Mona had been replaced almost three and a half centuries before with a permanently garrisoned fort at Seguntium, the raids had increased in frequency and daring recently. Stilicho, as the newly appointed legate to the western province of Britannia Prima, was keen to lead a retaliatory raid on Hibernia. Broad, muscular shoulders and pale scars on his thick forearms were proof of his military bearing and experience.

“You know the law,” he repeated implacably. “What is not collected must be made up from your own pocket. You can always sell your slaves to raise the necessary portion.”