Aelius Rufus Visits the Future, part 1
Salvete, carissimi amici. It's me, Aelius Rufus. You may remember me from a guided tour through the castellum Saalburg in Germania. I'm visiting my friend Gaius Fannius. He's a centurion with the II Augusta stationed in Britannia and just helped building the Antonine Wall. He's on holiday now and promised to show me some places in Britannia. But what is even better, he has a friend from the Caledonian tribes, one Merlinus who is a druid, a sorcerer or something, and he'll show us the future. Let's hope that Tony won't find out about it; he and his generals don't like soldiers to dabble in tribal magic.
So I took a ship from Bononia to Arbeia harbour where the Tinea river flows into the Mare Germanicum and where my friend Gaius awaited me. I recognised him at once in the crowd lining the pier. The soldiers nicknamed him Ursus because of his broad shoulders and hairy arms; some say also because of his temper, but he's a nice guy. He only shows his temper when some inept recruits still don't keep formation after a month's training. Then he can get quite formidable as I've once witnessed. Those recruits probably longed for a good fight against the Chatti if that got them away from Ursus.
Roman recruits from the future; they call it reenactment. Look at those funny sandals they wear. Can't keep formation either. I could hear Gaius mumble some not so nice comments, but Merlinus told us they don't speak Latin in the future, though some people still understand it.
Together, we walked the few miles to Segedunum - Roman soldiers are very good at walking - the place where Hadrian's Great Wall
begins. It's very impressive and a far cry from the earthern walls, trenches and palisades of the limes Germanicus
. Gaius told me the Antonine Wall was more like the German defenses, and it didn't really keep the tribes out. Not to mention there were tribes south of it as well with doubtful alliances. Northern Britannia is a worse mess than Germania.
The next morning we met with Merlinus. He had explained that it was the best place to travel to the future because it would change so much. It was cool and misty, the sky covered with grey clouds, and we huddled in our sagum
cloaks. Merlinus didn't look like one might expect a druid to look, he was rather handsome, slender and with long hair the colour of dark red wine, dressed in a simple tunica and a chequered cloak. And he spoke a pretty good Latin.
We found an unobtrusive place behind one of the barracks, touched hands, Merlinus murmured an incantation in an unknown language, and we found ourselves ....
... surrounded by dragons. The low, graphite sky was the same, the air still smelled slightly tangy from the sea, but the sounds were different. There were roars and screeches unheard in a Roman fort, and one of the dragons swung its head towards us. I grasped my gladius
- not that it would have been of much avail against a beast standing higher than a Roman insula
- and then I realised the dragon was made of iron. It was a giant crane. I could not imagine how many slaves it must have needed to swing it around and to pull the thick ropes with the heavy chest hanging from a hook - no, it were not ropes as we knew them, they were made of steel.
"It's a harbour," Merlinus said in a soft, dark voice. "We're in the year 2007 as it will be called in the future when there are no consuls to count the calendar by - 1863 years into the future. The place is called Wallsend now.
"How large must the ships be that need such giant cranes to unload them," Gaius murmured.
"We'll see the ships in due time," Merlinus said. "Let us have a look around."Continued here