It was an icy evening and I just had a funny feeling, the North Sea was a brutal place and I couldn’t determine if I was seasick or scared. Our boat rocked with the wind in peculiar synchronisation.
I was afraid. The long storm swelled tightly over the horizon and rain stomped the deck. The approaching hills of green turned into a landslide of liberated russet mud in surreal dawn light. My fear was unrelenting like the storm, but why was I afraid? I had an ominous feeling that I’d return to Rome a different man, if I was to return at all.
I was sent to investigate the sudden disappearance of hundreds of our Roman soldiers in northernmost Albion.
This strange northern land wasn’t home – I belonged in a villa miles away in Rome. I already missed the balmy summer nights, vibrant olive trees, succulent food and sweet wine. I was to be stationed in dreary Albion for the next year.
I sat lonely and homesick inside a tattered wooden hut on Hadrian’s Wall, my new home.
I rose on my first morning, where Plautius the Centurion briefed me on the mysterious disappearances. “We’ve had several freakish accidents – Septimus’ Century was obliterated in a snow storm, in the middle of summer. The snow melted, with no bodies to be found.”
“One month ago, the ground opened up – fifty Roman souls lost. Even a week ago, a whole Century contracted a strange skin illness and died suddenly, while the local Pictish natives were immune” whispered Plautius.
I was terrified. “I’ll get to the bottom of this; don’t worry” I lied profusely.
The next day, I walked along Hadrian’s Wall with a few of Plautius’ men. We passed a small pond, sat and ate bread. I was relieved – nothing untoward so far. Suddenly, a soldier screamed that the sky was raining fire. To my horror, shards of fire fell everywhere. I ordered the soldiers to scramble; the smell of burning flesh filled the air. My instinct was to jump into the pond. I held my breath forever. When I came up the screams stopped, and the surrounding area was all ash. The only things left were metal helmets and me. Something abominable was afoot.
The next day I unwillingly started my next investigation with another sentry. We moved in single file, looking out for danger. We came to an unfinished part of the Wall, stopping in front of a shallow bog. One-by-one we entered the bog, but each man was pulled forcefully under the bog as if it were a deep abyss. I was last to enter and retreated just in time. Another group lost.
What was happening?
That sleepless night, I summoned up enough courage to walk the Wall. I encountered a little Pictish girl – what was she doing here at night? I went closer, holding a dagger in my hand because I strangely felt I needed to. The child was chanting one of those sad Celtic songs the natives were so fond of.
“Hello Roman, how are you?” she sighed in broken Latin.
I drew closer and saw the ethereal face of this ruddy little girl.
“You know, your people don’t belong here” whispered the girl. I had nothing to say, but I did feel a rush of guilt.
“Search your heart, soldier – you’ll know what I mean – you don’t belong here. We mean you no harm, but nothing good can ever come of a force invading innocent people. As you are defying what is pure, so your people are reaping a commensurate grim fate” explained the girl.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“The One your people first killed when you built the Wall,” uttered the girl.
Heavenly Jove – was she a spirit?
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t here when they built the Wall” I exclaimed – hardly believing I was having this conversation.
In an instant – I knew Nature was conspiring against us Romans- we were imposing ourselves and acting contrary to right principles. I pondered my previously unshakeable views of the Empire.
Next day, I asked for immediate dispatch back to Rome. I lied to my superiors that the Picts are a brutish race that we’ll never conquer. We Romans never went further north.
In reality it was not that they were brutes – it was the simple Universal explanation of the little girl to me- defy Nature and it will defy you. It was I who halted further expansion north.
Indeed I returned to Rome a different man – the Empire won’t last in Britain and it is doomed furthermore. Any empire or force acting contrary to Nature, will find the full fury of that Nature directed against it – and all evil empires are doomed now and for all time.