2.The Road to Jerusalem.
Holding on with grim determination to her reins and saddle, Dawn tried to look like someone who’d been riding horses since she was a small child. After her rescue from the brigands and her brush with attempted rape, the Lady Naheed (as she discovered the busty woman was called) had found her a new dress to replace the one ripped by her would be rapist and helped her clean up and change. While Dawn was getting dressed, and having her wound treated, Captain Sher (the commander of her personal guards who she’d been calling ‘red tunic man’ in her head) had got his men organised. They’d collected all of the party’s belongings together from where they’d been scattered by the brigands and retied them into bundles and placed them onto the backs of horses.
It had taken, Dawn guessed, almost an hour to get everything organised. During this time, Tribune Varro had got more and more agitated. He seemed convinced that they were about to be attacked by a much larger force of brigands and kept casting nervous looks out across the desert. Luckily no ravening hordes of bandits turned up and after everything had been packed up and everyone mounted (however precariously) on a horse the small column rode off at a fast walk across the sand. Eventually they came to a road, not a very good road true, little more than a dusty track really. The Tribune turned the column to the right and they all trotted off along the road with Dawn bouncing along in her saddle doing her best not to fall off.
As they rode along the stony track, Dawn carefully questioned Naheed about her background and what they were doing here. Seemingly concerned for her charge’s wellbeing, Naheed willingly answered Dawn’s questions obviously hoping that talking about the past would jog her princess’ memory.
It appeared that everyone was convinced that Dawn was this Princess Roshan (a name which meant ‘bright light’) second in line to the throne of Hayasa; a small kingdom to the west of Judea and roughly where Jordan was in Dawn’s world. The Queen (it seemed that Hayasa was always ruled by a Queen) had sent Dawn or at least her daughter Roshan out into the world in order to find herself a rich and influential Roman husband. For a moment Dawn wondered what sort of woman would send her fourteen year old daughter out into the world with instructions to get married. The answer came to her after a little thought; probably the sort of woman who’s kingdom (which couldn’t be the right word seeing how it was ruled by a Queen) was surrounded by powerful enemies eager to snap it up and make it their own.
From what Lady Naheed was saying, Hayasa stood at the junction of several important trade routes and was very rich despite its small size. The Great Queen saw Rome as the only alternative to having her country swallowed up and destroyed by its larger neighbours. The Queen had sent Dawn out to find a Roman husband so as to form some sort of alliance with Rome by marrying someone rich and important. Listening to all this only increased Dawn’s feeling that she’d always been more important than she’d appeared to be, however the whole getting married thing sounded a little bit icky, after all she was still only fourteen. Oddly another part of her brain was telling her that this was all perfectly normal, which Dawn found quite disturbing. Letting all this new information percolate through her brain, Dawn decided that she’d need time to think of a way around getting married and try to remember her history lessons. In the mean time she’d play along with what everyone was saying.0=0=0=0
Having gained a little confidence after riding for a couple of hours and not falling off (in fact it seemed to be becoming second nature to her, which Dawn thought was strange) she rode to the front of the column and sort out Tribune Varro. Trying to tell herself that this was simply so she could get a different perspective on what she’d been told. Deep down inside, Dawn knew it was because she really-really just wanted an excuse to talk to the handsome Roman officer.
“Hi!” Dawn smiled as she managed to get her horse to walk along side Varro’s.
“Good afternoon, Princess,” Varro nodded politely at Dawn in greeting, “How are you feeling, how’s the old head?”
“Fine!” Dawn grinned before qualifying her statement, she didn’t want to appear as if she’d recovered too quickly, “Well, you know, better than I was and you should call me Dawn.”
Frowning, Dawn stopped talking for a moment, when she’d tried to say ‘Dawn’ it’d come out as ‘Roshan’, this made her frown; this was obviously something else that she was going to need to think about.
“Or,” Dawn thought quickly, she really wanted this guy to like her and she’d heard that one of the ways people (like ‘boyfriends’ and ‘girlfriends’) had of showing they liked each other was by having pet names for each other. “Call me…erm…” Dawn tried to think up a pet name for herself, “Rosh or-or,” Dawn realised that this really wasn’t working out so well and she was starting to make herself look foolish, “Shan, or-or just call me Roshan, huh, please?”
“Ros?” Varro turned to her and smiled at her the same way that Xander had often smiled at her.
Just for a moment Dawn felt herself drown in Varro’s wonderful, warm smile and deep blue eyes; she imagined his hands on her body and his lips on her… With a little cry of alarm, Dawn snapped back from the warm wonderful world where Varro was doing the sorts of things that she didn’t even know she knew about and back to the world where she was concentrating on not falling off her horse.
“Yeah,” Dawn smiled uncertainly, she felt her skin flush; oh god, she thought, I’m blushing he probably thinks I’m a stupid little girl! “Erm, what can I call you?” Dawn asked after they’d ridden along the track a more few yards.
“I’m Tribune Acacius Ovidious Varro, don’t-cha-know,” the young officer informed her, “you can call me Acacius or Varro, which ever you like, Princess.”
“Oh, no I didn’t,” Dawn frowned as she slumped down in her saddle, she’d been right he only saw her as a little girl a sister or something, “yeah, right.”
Riding next to the young woman, Varro smiled to himself; the Princess was quite attractive in an exotic, foreign way and seemed more intelligent than the average young woman her age.
“There’s an oasis up ahead, good water and palm trees, quite romantic really,” Varro pointed down the track, “if you like that sort of thing; we’ll camp there tonight. In the morning I’ll deliver you and your people to the governor’s palace in Jerusalem.”
For a moment, Dawn’s disappointment at failing to get on friendly terms with Varro was forgotten. In the morning she’d see Jerusalem, something that she’d never thought about doing. Letting her horse drop back so she was riding next to Naheed, Dawn sank into self pity, the first guy she’d been remotely interested in (other than Xander and that she now realised was just a schoolgirl crush) didn’t like her, she sighed heavily as she fell in next to Naheed.
“So, little Kitten,” Naheed shivered inside at the use of the little brat’s pet name as she leaned over towards Dawn, “how have you been getting on with our fine, brave, and handsome Roman saviour?”
“He says I should call him Varro,” Dawn sulked.
“Then why so sad, Kitten?” Naheed looked at Dawn in surprise.
“What?” Dawn frowned at her companion.
“Roman’s are more than a little odd in there ways, not like normal people at all.” Naheed smiled outwardly while hating the girl beside her on the inside, “If he says to call him Varro it means he likes you…”
“It does?” Dawn was bewildered she’d really thought he’d given her the brush off.
“Is he rich?” Naheed asked, “Does he come from a powerful family?”
“I-I don’t know,” Dawn was more than a little confused, things were moving far too quickly for her to get them straight in her mind.
“Well you need to find out right quick,” Naheed told her, “you don’t want to waste your time on some penniless, no account adventurer, however handsome he might be.” Naheed looked around to check no one was listening, “On the other hand, it would be better to marry a rich man you like than one you don’t, so, if this young man is rich and important you should snap him up as soon as possible.”
“I should?” Dawn replied uncertainly, she’d only just met the guy and she was really only looking for a boyfriend not a husband; no, said the other part of her brain that seemed to have a mind of its own, you’re looking for a husband.
“You should,” agreed Naheed with a firm nod of the head, by the gods the girl was even more stupid than she’d thought, “the gods are smiling on you by sending you a prospective husband so quickly and…” Naheed giggled at the thought of the vile Princess being raped to death by entire Centuries of Roman soldiers, “I’ve heard it said that Roman men are prodigious lovers.”
“They are?” Dawn felt even more unsure of herself now, perhaps she should give up on the whole idea of having a boyfriend, at least for now.
“So I’ve been told,” again Naheed nodded her head, “so tonight when we camp I suggest you fine a way of spending a little time with your Varro…”
“My Varro?” Dawn whispered, he was ‘her Varro’ now, when had that happened?
“Find out if he’s rich and important,” Naheed told her, “then make yourself desirable to him.”
“Desirable?” Dawn wasn’t quite sure what Naheed was getting at but she thought she might be able to guess.0=0=0=0
After a rather restless night, haunted by visions of her dead sister and rapists with poor dental hygiene, Dawn awoke to another sunny, warm day in the past. Having come surprisingly quickly to terms with her new situation she’d decided to accept the hand life had dealt her; after all it was a case of having to. As far as she could see there was no way for her to get home and what would be the point anyway? Her sister and mother were dead her father had vanished off the face of the earth. Before she’d jumped she’d not caught a glimpse of any of her other friends, what was there for her back in Sunnydale?
Here on the other hand, she had people who appeared to like her, the way Naheed called her ‘Kitten’ spoke of a long time relationship. Captain Sher and his men seemed devoted to her and Tribune Varro… Well, Tribune Varro was something of a problem. As she’d been told to do, she’d tried to find out about his family and bank account but as she didn’t want to appear to be a ‘pushy slut’ she’d not actually found out much. As for the whole, ‘make yourself desirable’ thing, that hadn’t gone so well either. Her ‘womanly wiles’ had bounced off him like arrows rebounding off that breast plate he wore, perhaps she wasn’t doing it right; Dawn decided to ask Naheed about it later. A sudden thought entered her mind, what if Varro was gay? That would be just her luck, fall for the gay guy!0=0=0=0
It was mid morning and the sun was just starting to get hot when they began to meet a lot of foot traffic on the road. Men and women in what looked like the sort of robes that Arabs wore in Dawn’s time, passed them by or got out of the way of the Roman’s horses. As they went on down the road, Dawn noticed the looks that these people were giving her and the Roman officer beside her.
“What’s with all the daggers looks?” Dawn asked Varro; she’d been riding next to him for most of the morning.
“Oh, that’s nothing to be worried about, Princess,” Varro gave a bitter laugh, “They just hate us Roman’s and anyone who’s a friend of ours.”
“Like me?” Dawn asked casting a worried glance around at all the people who looked at her with hate filled eyes.
“I’m afraid so, Princess,” Varro agreed sadly, “even beautiful young women like you…”
Dawn missed the rest of what Varro was saying, she was too busy thinking, ‘he thinks I’m beautiful’ for her to pay much attention; that had to be the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her.
“…so you see,” Varro’s voice penetrated Dawn’s mind once more, “even after all we’ve done for them, y’know, the water system, law and order, public health, baths, wine, the ungrateful sods, excuse my Aramaic, would still cut your throat as soon as look at you.”
“Sorry, what?” Dawn smiled, “I wasn’t listening…” thinking that had been the wrong thing to say she tried to save herself, “I mean I was thinking about what you’d said and I totally lost track of what you were saying and I didn’t mean to sound as if I was ignoring you…”
Dawn ran out of breath and stopped talking.
“That’s alright,” Varro actually sounded as if it was alright, “pretty girls like you…”
Once again Dawn started to drift off to the land of, ‘he thinks I’m pretty’; with a great effort of will she dragged herself back to the here and now.
“…they’re all religious fanatics don’t-cha-know,” Varro gestured to the people all around, “think they’re special,” Varro snorted derisively, “the chosen people or something.”
“They do?” Dawn found herself urging her horse closer to Varro’s
“Mad the lot of them,” Varro obviously didn’t like the locals, “y’know they only have one god? Bloody atheists!”
“Only one! That’s like, totally weird,” Dawn tried to sound surprised and look shocked, from the expression on Varro’s face she thought she must have pulled it off.
“That’s right,” Varro nodded, “and as for these so-called messiahs…”
“Messiahs?” Dawn asked.
“Yes,” Varro nodded, “it means teacher or something,” he explained, “what they really are, are insane holy men who whip up disaffection to Roman rule….and, like I say, after all we’ve done for them.”
“Yeah,” Dawn nodded her head in agreement; just at the moment if Varro had said the sky was green she’d have agreed with him, she really didn’t know what was happening to her, “So what was it you said the Roman’s have done for them?”
“Well,” Varro laughed before repeating himself, “there’s law and order,” he counted the points off on his fingers, “the roads, public baths, schools, medicine, improved agriculture, the new aqueducts and the wine of course.”
“So quite a lot really,” Dawn looked around at the sullen faces of the locals, “y’know put like that it does seem a little ungrateful of them.”
“I’m glad you see it that way,” Varro smiled and nodded at her, “it’s obvious that you have brains as well as beauty.”
Yet again, Dawn drifted off to a place with only herself and Varro in it, he was obviously intelligent because he’d quickly recognised her for what she truly was, beautiful and intelligent. It’d been hard for Dawn always being in the shadow of her big sister. Not only was Buffy attractive (Dawn found she could admit this to herself now her sister was dead) and she had the whole ‘big sister’ thing going for her, Dawn also had the ‘slayer thing’ to deal with. Having an older, attractive big sister was bad enough, but when said big sister saved the world several times a year, what chance did the little sister have?
Her joy at having found someone who seemed to like her and that her sister wasn’t going to steal away or make fun of; was spoilt only by the realisation that her sister was dead. All things considered, Dawn would actually prefer to have her sister alive and being a great big pain in her butt than having her dead and gone. The though made her sad and drove her happier mood of a moment before away.
“Why so sad, Princess?” Varro asked quietly, “I hope I didn’t frighten you with my tales about the locals,” he gave a self deprecating laugh, “I know I do tend to go on about them but they make me so angry.”
“That’s okay,” Dawn sniffed back the tears and forced a smile, “I was thinking about home and it made me a little sad, so,” Dawn decided to stop acting like a cry baby and start acting like the powerful woman everyone seemed to think she was, “where are all these people going?”
“There’s probably one of these messiah fellows preaching out in the wilderness somewhere,” Varro gestured to the surrounding hills, “they like to do that now and again, don’t-cha-know?”
“No I didn’t,” Dawn replied seriously, “Can we go see?”
“I-I suppose so,” Varro replied uncertainly, “if the Lady Naheed doesn’t object.”
“Oh,” Dawn smiled knowingly “I’m sure she won’t.”
After halting the column by the side of the road, Varro rode back and asked Lady Naheed if it would be alright for him to take Dawn to see the holy man preach. Naheed readily agreed and even stopped Sher from sending any of his men along with the couple pointing out that Princess Roshan was quite safe in the young officer’s care. In reality she was hoping that a mob of religious fanatics might tear the princess and the hated Roman to pieces thus saving her a great deal of trouble.
Leaving the column to continue on its way under a Decurion, Dawn and Varro trotted away from the road (by now Dawn felt reasonably sure she wouldn’t fall off her horse and make a fool of herself) and followed the locals until they came to a sort of mount where a man stood preaching to a large crowd.
“Don’t press too close,” Varro advised in a whisper, “stay near the edge of the crowd and we should be safe, see,” he pointed to where pairs of Roman soldiers that were dotted around the crowd, “the local garrison commander has sent some Auxiliaries to keep order.”
Nodding her head in understanding, Dawn tried to hear what the preacher was saying, “I wish he’d speak up,” she complained, “did you hear what he said?”
“Blessed are the cheese makers, I think,” Varro laughed quietly, puzzled as to why cheese makers should come in for special treatment. “I wonder why he thinks cheese makers are so important?”
“I don’t think its meant to be taken literally,” Dawn whispered, “it probably refers to all manufacturers of dairy products.”
“Oh yes, I see,” Varro nodded his head, thinking how intelligent (and beautiful) the Princess was for such a young woman, “Oh!” Varro stained to hear what the preacher said next, “Did you hear that?”
“Blessed are the Greek?” Dawn replied uncertainly.
“I wonder if he means all of them or just one in particular,” Varro mused.
“Sounds like he’s going to inherit the earth,” Dawn shrugged; she was starting to think that Varro was right, all these people were, like completely nutso!
“I don’t suppose you caught his name did you?” Varro grinned at Dawn, “Sounds like the sort of fellow it’d be good to get to know.”
“Excuse me Sir.” Varro and Dawn turned to find one of the Auxiliaries standing close by.
“Yes soldier?” Varro replied.
“Couldn’t help overhearing you an’ your lady, sir,” the soldier nodded in Dawn’s direction, “but he said, ‘blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the world’.”
“He did?” Varro replied as he raised an eyebrow, “Thank-you, soldier.”
“No worries, sir,” the soldier said before bracing to attention and turning away.
“Oh that’s nice,” Dawn smiled, her mind going all ‘gooey’ from being mistaken for Varro’s ‘lady’, “I always thought the meek deserved something.”
“I expect,” Varro leaned closer to Dawn so they could speak more privately (Dawn’s heart hammered in her chest from the excitement of being so close to her one-true-love), “that by the time the meek get the earth no one else will want it!”
Before either of the young people could say anything else, a fight broke out amongst a group of people over to their right.
“See what I mean?” Varro gestured sadly to the struggling, mob, “This sort of religious violence is a stain on the reputation of the entire empire.”
“Yeah,” Dawn nodded sagely as she looked around Varro’s body to get a better view of the fight; just as she did so several pairs of soldiers moved in to arrest the combatants and take them away, “What’ll happen to them?”
“Oh,” Varro sighed tiredly, “if its their first offence they’ll probably get away with crucifixion.”
“Crucifixion?” Dawn gulped, “For a first offence?”
“Makes sure they won’t do it again,” Varro pointed out reasonably.
“Totally,” Dawn nodded, you couldn’t really argue with logic like that.
“Are you hungry?” Varro asked out of the blue.
“A little,” Dawn admitted, she’d not touched her breakfast as she’d been feeling sad about losing Buffy and all her friends.
“Then you’re in luck,” Varro pointed to a man who was selling food from the baskets that hung from the back of his donkey, “unless I’m very much mistaken that’s a Fish and Loaf vendor!”0=0=0=0
As the crowd started to break up once the preacher had finished his sermon, three men and one woman all dressed in dark blue robes broke away from the crowd.
“Well,” a man called Ezrah announced to his friends, “blessed are just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo, as far as I can see.”
“Yeah,” the leader of the group, a man called Rafa agreed with a curt nod, “what Yeshua blatantly fails to appreciate is that it's the meek who are
“Yes, yes,” agreed Judith, the only woman in the group, “Absolutely, Rafa. Yes, I see…” 0=0=0=0