Chapter 5

Miles away from Rome, from Ren and the brown mongrel, there was a man, his long, black hair fluttering in the wind, as he sat atop his brown horse.

He was not alone. Surrounded by hundreds and thousands of his rugged men, he was worshipped and respected, his status as their leader unquestioned.

But he felt alone.

Maybe it had something to do with his character. Never one to take to lengthy conversations, he appeared aloof, almost distant. That said, on the occasion when he did speak, everyone around him listened intently, not a single man dared to stir and interrupt, such was his aura.

As a matter of fact, it had long been said that he was hardly human, that his blood was cold, his nerves made of steel, and that he killed without batting a single eyelid.

His name is King Leo.

A long time ago, since the day he was born, everybody felt that it was his fate to unite all warring tribes. And without a doubt, he definitely believed in it.

War was in his blood, and conquests, the definition and milestones of his existence.

He noticed, not without displeasure, that some of his soldiers had a liking for material and physical comforts in the form of gold coins and beautiful women.

But he was different.

Indulgence was not in his blood. Never was.

What he wanted were fights.

Not that he had ever found a worthy opponent who could trouble him in a one-to-one battle, or a master strategist who could out-maneuver him in military deployment.

But then again, maybe he would encounter one in Rome.
He couldn’t wait.

Nevertheless, there were still five states separating his mighty army from the Eternal City.

The city of Aquileia, the one that he now stood in front of, was of the greatest difficulty. The terrain strongly favored the defense, and the walls had stood firm for close to two weeks, despite being pounded almost on a daily basis by an avalanche of battering rams.

Worse, the opposing soldiers refused to meet his army head on, preferring to cower within the city. For now, their only action to fend off the invasion was to rain down arrows.

His own troops were already growing restless.

If the situation persisted, his army would lose their edge and aggression even before reaching Rome.

Something had to give way.

*

Later that day, Leo heard a loud fluttering sound of movements. He turned his head, and saw a large flock of storks and their young taking flight into the air, flying out of the city.

He knew it was an omen – the city was doomed. The birds had sensed it, and were now departing. Leo, like his fellow Huns, was superstitious. But this had nothing to do with anything supernatural. Instead, it stemmed from his belief that wild animals possess a wild instinct that allows them to escape harm. This was what ensured the survival of their species for centuries.

He was right. Of course he was.

The city walls collapsed, almost too easily, after another attack.

And then, having breached the last line of defense, he immediately ordered for the complete annihilation of the inhabitants, followed by the burning of all the structures to the ground.

This was justification for his frustrations of the past week.

*

 

Read Chapter 6