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Chapter Text

July 2

Darius shuddered slightly as he listened to Wilhelm speak

Oh yes, Germans had quite a bit of experience with conquering.


The southern bank of the Danube River,
The thirteenth year of the reignof the Eastern Emperor Valens
(Bulgaria 377 A.D.)

"You're smiling," Grayson observed as he entered the tent.

Darius looked up from the map he had drawn and noticed that the Dacian was smiling as well.
Grayson was by nature a serious, intense man and almost never showed large, open hearted smiles.
Almost never except to Darius, such was the depth of his loyalty to his mentor.

Grayson joined him at the table, his eyes tracing the symbols across the map Darius had drawn symbols
that showed the locations of tribes, legions and towns.

"You always smile when you plan a campaign," Grayson said. "You smile every bit as much as you when
you fight."

"All aspects of war are satisfying," Darius replied. "I have learned that there is as much satisfaction in
planning as there is in actual combat. And it takes less energy!" He laughed and Grayson joined him.

Darius returned to his map. "And there is great satisfaction in foreseeing the shape of things to come."

"Even when others do not," Grayson said as he pulled up a stool beside Darius.

"Especially when others do not," Darius corrected. "That is how we win. Look," he said, pointing on the map
to the southern shore of the Danube River, "this is where Valens, noble emperor of the eastern half of what
is left of the Roman Empire, so graciously permitted us-and two hundred thousand other Visigoths to settle
last year."

"He had little choice, we were beating down his gates."

"True. The Romans are no longer what they were, they're divided. Two Empires; West and East. Two capitals;
Rome and Constantinople. Two emperors; Valentinian II and Valens. They no longer have their former strength."

"Yes," Grayson pointed out. "But that does not stop them from treating us with contempt. And it does not stop
Valens from behaving as arrogantly as if he ruled the entire world."

"Patience," Darius smiled, "he will learn soon enough. Those who are the most arrogant are almost always
the ones most blinded to their weaknesses."

"But we are divided as well," Grayson pointed out. "The Ostrogoths chose to remain in the east."

"True." Darius pointed to the area north of the Black Sea. "The Goths settled on these steppes a hundred years
after I was reborn to Immortality. And it was here that they, in time, divided. The Visigoths settled further west
and the Ostrogoths settled by the eastern shores."

"Yes, and they stayed there," Grayson said. "They stayed where they were and accepted the rule of the Huns
when they came from the east seven years ago." He jabbed his finger at the map. "King Ermanaric failed his people."

"He may have failed, but the people have not," Darius pointed out. "The Huns are fierce, as you and I both know,
but the Ostrogoths are still a strong warrior race. And they may learn much from the Huns."

"Their cavalry," Grayson said with a grudging envy. "Never have I seen such a union of man and mount."

"Indeed. We should go back there in a hundred years to see if the Huns still rule the Ostrogoths, or if the Ostrogoths
rule the Huns. I have seen tribes combine before; just as the Goths did with the Alans."

"I do not want to simply wait for a hundred years."

"We have time, Grayson," Darius smiled. "If there is one thing I have learned as an Immortal, it is that we have time.
Time is both our battleground and our plaything. We need to learn to play it to our ends.

"I have learned patience. I have learned when to attack and when to withdraw. I have learned when to advance,
and when to wait and bide my time. The Huns are formidable, but mortal. They will not always be in power
and we can deal with them at a later time.

"But fear not, my student. We are not going to wait, for we have other things to do. Another thing I have learned
is how to turn a setback into an advantage. We may have been pushed out of the east for now, but that simply
means that the west now lies before us."

Darius's finger traced the lands of his own tribe. The Visigoths; a proud, fierce warrior people. A people smarting
from the humiliation of having to flee their homeland. A people grown increasingly restless and angered by Roman

The Romans may be sneering at us now, but soon…very soon…

Darius's wolf-like smile broadened. "Constantinople awaits us."