OPENING MOVES

The city of Rome, the eternal city forged in blood, destined to greatness and favoured by the Gods. The city of Romulus. After hundreds of years of war the Italian peninsula was mostly under Roman rule. Rome’s sheer military power had made the rest of the cities submit to Rome, either by choice or by force. Either way it was the 600 men of the Roman Senate that ruled the Latin lands. And with power follows responsibility. To uphold the republics safety and ensure it’s survival the Senate and the city of Rome held the power to field several legions that were to respond to the Senate’s whims, legions that fed the lands of Latinium with endless streams of blood with their warfare. Today, the powerful family of Julii upheld Rome’s urge to fight. They battled the Gaul hill tribes to the north of the Roman republic. A war that brought them increased power and influence with every victory they collected. To the west the family of the Scipii, the wealthiest and by many reckoned to be the most powerful family of Rome (if by nothing else than their sheer economic might), had made land fall on Sicily. With a diplomatic Coupe the Gras, they had taken control over the city of Messana, right under the nose of the powerful Carthaginians. In the centre and to the east the Brutii held their influence. The ancient family of devious politicians ruthlessly holds control over the Senate. With their network of spies and diplomats they were among the decision makers in the Roman hierarchy. And it is these three families that will shape tomorrows Rome and only the Gods know who will come out on top.

In Rome, as almost everywhere, the decisions were not made in the main arena but on the sidelines. Two men slowly walked through the great garden, one of many in the eternal city, in soft conversation. As opposed to the many philosophers, senators and even a couple of lovers or two, these two did not take in the great beauty the garden had to offer. Even though they were given great berth by the rest of the gardens occupants. But then again the men in question was not just you’re average Roman Patrician. The eldest, a tall and prominent figure dressed in the finest of cloths, gave off a feeling that he was used to get what he wanted. If seers set their eyes on him they would see his commanding aura shrouding his entire being as in a veil. He was none other than proconsul Flavius Julius, patriarch of house Julii, one of the most powerful men in Rome and a war hero. By his side, a younger version of himself walked confidently. Flavius son Vibius Julius was a Senate favorite after his many victorious battles against the Gaul’s. These two had cleansed Etruria and Umbria of foreign threats a few years ago and were spoken highly of throughout Rome. For this remarkable achievement Flavius were given command as proconsul of the northern provinces of Etruria and Umbria, increasing their power stance even more. The house of Julii had suddenly become a powerhouse and was now mentioned in the same sentence as the Brutii and Scipii. And with newfound power follows newfound threats. The Brutii family recognized the growing threat and had put the family under a close watch. The family’s spymaster had dedicated several spies to this newly developed danger.

“How did the meeting with Publia Sempronius go? They accepted?” Vibius showed obvious apprehension as he awaited his father’s answer. The further growth of their house demanded expansion and the plebian leader Sempronius held a vital position in furthering house Julii’s quest for power. With the plebeians on their side they would be certain that further resources like men and money would befall them. Resources they needed to grow and uphold the war effort. “We need worry no more. They have accepted to vote with us. Two more cohorts have been assigned our two Legions. Although it was costly, I promised them a great number of slaves and a trade agreement. Much of the trade and slaving from the new provinces will be given to the plebeians, thereby robbing us of much needed currency. Damn those Plebeians, all they ever think about is money.” Flavius took a deep breath to calm him self, now was not the time or the place. They would just have to deal with the greed of the Plebeians later. “I have started the process of convincing the Senate that Leguria is vital to further secure Roman rule in the north. I’ve even ordered a few farms on the border to be burnt to further our cause.” Flavius flinched as he saw the horrified expression of his son as he processed the last sentence. “It has to be done and worse, the village has to be sacked and sold in to slavery. To Sempronius off course, part of the deal and it will help train the new men before we get cart blanc from the Senate on the war on the Gaul’s.” Behind them a man slowly slipped away after following them for the better part of their stroll. His job was done; Luca would be most interested in what he had heard. As he walked away he pondered the ease of his spying, wondering if it was intentionally by Flavius to let him hear or not. This wouldn’t have worked with the Scipii, and the Brutii would have all out killed him for the effort. Political spying was after all their livelihood, and bad performance was rewarded with death. Again he praised his luck on being on the right side as he started to lie out his messages throughout the city of Rome for Luca Brutus Antonius to find.

On the northern coast of Sicily a detachment of ships slowly rowed away, leaving the wreckage in their wake. They had sunk three ships to show they meant business before the rest of the convoy handed over their goods. The captain smiled as he made a head count of the loot, the tension between the cities of Carthage and Syracuse on one side and Rome on the other had made his business flourish. And today he had just made a bargain. The wine and pottery alone would make a killing in Carthage.

The noise from the bar made the scrawny looking man put his head closer to his conversation partner to hear what he said. “ Happened to you too you said? “ the overly intoxicated man tried to focus on the scrawny man next to him as he spoke but found it too hard and lowered his head again. “ The bloody Greeks and Carthaginians are steeling all the trade there is. They over flood the market with their products, making it neigh to impossible to make money. Certainly not with the heavy toll they put on our products. Bastards.” The little man ordered another beer for the disconsolate trader. “Here you are, drown your sorrow with another beer. I too have come upon hard times, just the other day I lost an entire shipment of slaves in a pirate raid. Certainly by Carthage’s doing I guess.” The trader tilted his head and gave his companion a look that probably was meant to be a shrewd smile, “their time will soon be at an end and the time to act is soon at hand”. The last words slurred as he slumped back, incapacitated by his heavy drinking. The little man quickly looked around and easily fished up the trader’s purse in a fluent movement as he made his way towards the exit, no one said that he couldn’t earn a little extra on his missions. If his target was daft enough to come in to such a bar and then manage to pass out it was only his own fault. The well-filled purse was a welcomed bonus and he thanked the lady Fortuna for the luck at finding the Scipii trader before he made his way home. Back to main land Rome.

Not far away a council of 30 men toasted their agreement. After several years of bandit uprising and thereby slowed trade, the two cities of Galeatic Hybla and Inessa had decided two shift their allegiance to Syracuse. The mighty city-state had taken more and more of their trade and it had gone so far as their people actually started to migrate to the city. Further lessening the two cities power. Since Rome in their infinite wisdom did not choose to put down the bandit uprising or do anything about the lessened trade the cities felt they would be better of within the influence of Syracuse. They feared Rome’s response but Syracuse had promised them their protection. All in all they had to choose to fade slowly in to oblivion or take a stance and they had just made their choice.

“WHAT! They have what!” Cornelius Scipio, leader of house Scipii and considered the most powerful man in Rome by many, had trouble controlling himself. “ Did they think we would sit by idly and let it happened? Did they not think it would harvest repercussions?” Galeatic Hybla and Inessa once loyal boarder cities to Rome had, in their own twisted logic, decided to shift their allegiance to the mighty city of Syracuse. Their closest supply base and south Sicily’s main defense line was suddenly pushed all the way back to Tauromenium north of the river Acesines. In reality giving Syracuse control of Mount Etna and thereby endangering the supply routs to the cities east, which might lead the eastern cities to join Lilybaeum. Thereby cutting of Messanas grain supply. If Rome had any visions of keeping a presence on Sicily they would have to address the issue. The loss of the two cities was wholly unacceptable. Cornelius took a deep breath “Send diplomats to Syracuse and Lilybaeum. Try to get an impression on their mood. This is just what Carthage has been waiting for. It will be folly to think they wont capitalize on the event.” Cornelius grabbed the note and a few maps and marched out. There was much to plan, war loomed on the horizon and ways on how to turn the events in to a Scipii advantage had to be found. Cornelius shuddered as he thought of the costs war brought with it. The raising of needed Legions and fleets that the resent events required would be staggering, although the rewards if successful would be immeasurable. Going up against Carthage so soon was not ideal and they were far from prepared. The Senate would not be pleased by the news; hopefully they wouldn’t declare war on Syracuse and Carthage outright. If they could hold the meddlesome Carthagians out of the conflict that would be for the best, but somehow he didn’t think either the Senate or Carthage would turn down an opportunity like this. The anti Carthage wing of the Senate would push for a war with them as always. They would probably try to make this a Carthage conspiracy and demand justice by war. He felt disheartened by the whole mess, the news had to be discussed in the Senate immediately and as he eyed a servant he ordered his carriage to be readied at once. Cornelius took solace in that perhaps a solution would present itself on the way or that Syracuse would come to reason in the end, that they might not want a war they neither. He snorted at his own silliness; the day a Greek would turn down a reason to fight would be the day the Gaul’s turned in their weapons for a bath.

Lucas looked through the rapports once more with increasing apprehension. Something big was amiss, something unprecedented. The Julii where by all probabilities readying themselves for a full all out war against the Gaul’s. The difference this time where that it would be a war of annihilation. The defeated would be utterly crushed, left without a chance of ever becoming a faction again. To escalate a war to this level worried Lucas, if the Julii were not capable of winning the war the infuriated barbarians would strike against Rome with a vengeance. What troubled Lucas even more was the looming threat by Scipii to conquer Sicily. In all reality opening a three front war, a war with two of the most powerful nations on Earth. Battling Carthage and the Greeks at the same time could prove taxing on the Roman armies. What puzzled him even more was the rapports from all three factions that all pointed at a possible invasion of Roman lands. Carthage was trying to cut of Roman trade and at the same time increased their navy and army at an alarming rate. The Greek city-states, fools who had fought among themselves for as long as anyone cared to remember, had suddenly declared an alliance between the many cities. Almost every month a new city fell in line with the new alliance. Making the once docile Aegan in to a major threat, which would challenge the Brutii’s self declared area of influence. At this rate it wouldn’t take long before the alliance would reach all the way up to Segestica, the northern most Greek/Illyrian city. The Brutii Tribune would not be happy. Lucas Brututs Antonius, the Brutii Spy Master, could only see one outcome; the uncontrollable events would lead the house of Brutii to war. He knew what he had to do. As a Spy Master it was in his power to call a Tribune if he found alarming news, and the time for a tribune had come.

“And that concludes my recent findings. I will off course reconvene the Tribune if I get more disturbing news.” And with that Lucas was done with his duty. Left in the richly decorated room remained the leaders of the Brutii tribune, the most powerful men in the Brutii and its affiliated families. Proconsul Tiberius Brutus got up from his chair and started pacing the room. It was one of his quirks, when he was thinking hard he had always kept himself in motion. Even reading made him walk, one could often see him wandering around his house holding a book or having a long discussion with himself. And now he rally needed to think. Their area of influence where seriously challenged by the Greek city-states. If they lost this influence it would hurt their standing in the Senate. They would surly loose some of the Senators which had huge interests there, thereby threatening their dominance. All ready the Julii had managed too get a powerful position in the Senate, in a surprisingly short time span and mainly due to their successful field campaigns. The amount of support was surprising, that they already had the power to get cart blanch on Gaul was highly unexpected. They had grown complacent, and now they had to pay for it. They would have to initiate an assault on the remaining cities that had not yet joined the alliance. This would more than likely lead to a war with the alliance. Macedonia would have to be consulted and hopefully an alliance could be agreed upon, securing the flank and enabling the conquest of the remaining unallied Greek cities. A Legion had too be raised and hopefully they would come up with an idea of how to use the knowledge to get favors from the Julii and best of all the Scipii. Tiberius stopped and turned to watch the tribune, all very competent men. He was confident that they would succeed in their endeavor and that they might get out of this in a far better position than they were now, they where after all the favorites of the Gods. “The time to act has come. Once again we take to the field and our Legions will again bring glory to our name. This is what we must do” and with those words Tiberius opened the tribune and a new time for the Brutii.

“Order, come to Order” but the words fell to deaf ears as the Senate was in an uproar. Everywhere Senate factions were yelling at each other trying to figure what had just happened. The Senate had a moments ago voted for total war against all it’s neighbors, an unprecedented event that none wanted. The Scipii were baffled as to what had happened, all that they had feared had come true. They were facing a war against Carthage and the Greek City States, and somehow the Senate had reached an agreement that it would be beneficial to Rome with a presence in Africa. The gambit of a localized war revolving around Sicily had failed by growing over their heads and turned in to a full-scale war. Their coffers would be sorely pressed and worse yet their focus had been pushed towards Africa. Cornelius could not help but feel they got the worse end of the deal. The Julii had gotten what they wanted, a reason to engage the Gaul’s. Their spies had already figured that out several months ago, after all it was because of that decision that Cornelius had opted for a quick conquest war of Sicily. The plan was genius. They only had to take Syracuse, thereby declaring war on the new Greek alliance. It would be up to the Brutii to handle the Greek war though. In this time they could put all their focus on winning back the majority of the Senate, as the two other lead factions were busy waging war. With a little luck they would end up with the control of Sicily and wrest the control of Brutium and Apulia from the wretched Brutii. But somehow it all had been turned against them. The initial plan had worked like a charm but the follow up laid everything in shambles. The months of planning had not taken in to consideration the event of a lengthy war, certainly not one against Carthage and the rest of Africa. Cornelius was frustrated and as he moved towards the exit he spotted Tiberius. They locked eyes for the briefest second and Cornelius Scipio saw the truth. Tiberius didn’t show any emotion of surprise of the resent events; in fact Cornelius thought he could see a smirk on his face as he left. Today’s occurrences were all Brutii work. They had outplayed everyone and turned what would have been a bad day for them to at least an even score. Cornelius could not but congratulate them and their victory as he headed home. They had plans to make. Rome was going to war and power was up for the taking. The race had begun.