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Things We Have Lost

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

By lj blickensderferPublished 3 months ago 15 min read
Things We Have Lost
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

I do as I am told, and I am not so sure if it is because I am loyal to them. I think I have long since lost the sense of morality that might object to their decrees; every change in the timeline has a cost and I have seen the prices paid in death and destruction, but there is no change that will save everyone, and I think I have become blind to the carnage, accustomed to death so that it doesn't hurt anymore. I am not so sure if that is a good thing.

I sometimes ponder the effects of my work. Am I doing the world good?

My answer keeps changing, but most of the time, I find that I don't think I care about doing good or doing bad anymore; I think that maybe that is the problem.

I am shaping the world for someone else, creating and destroying the timeline for the ideals and visions of others, and I think that maybe I enjoy it. I am not sure.

When the aftermath of change ripples through the timeline there is something in me that savors the power of every second destroyed, every moment that never was, every soul lost to eternity. It's a feeling like no other, intoxicating and obsessive. The kind of pain that makes the pleasure even better. I am the crusher of dreams and the destroyer of memories. I am the rewriting of history and the purveyor of destinies.

I am not so sure how it might feel to regret the worlds I have unmade; I don't think I have it in me, and I am realizing that maybe I don't need it, after all. I build and destroy and fix and change. I am monstrous and angelic, ethereal and demonic; the world is powerless to my actions and I think I am in love with it.

It is not so much loyalty as it is opportunity. They made me the best, but it is I who made them, and I think that maybe they could use a reminder.

Still, I revel in the way the world changes, the way I change the world, and maybe I don't do it for them, for their loyalty or their praise, but rather for myself.

I think that makes me a villain.

But I am coming to find that maybe I am okay with that.

Germania, 9 CE

There is so much to find here, so many changes that could be made. I am thinking about the way the world could be different. The intricacies of language, the evolution of thought; a change here could turn the world into something else entirely.

I am watching the way Varus looks at Arminius. It is not dislike exactly, closer to a sort of greed that is obvious only to me. Arminius is useful, with his charm and charisma, he is the perfect liaison to the tribes of Germania; Varus has at least some sense of respect for his auxiliary commander, but only in the way he must.

Finally, Arminius gives his general a nod, confirmation, and a salute that turns his eyes hard in a way that makes me giddy, but Varus doesn't seem to notice and that makes it better in the worst way.

When Arminius walks away, I follow.

When Varus walks away, I follow.

There are words in the air, shouts from one to another, but I don't listen. My feet are on this ground, soil trod on by the past and the future, armies and warriors lost to time.

I could find them, if I tried.

The camp is organized in neat rows; the legionnaire tents on the outside, surrounded by those of the cavalry and auxiliary, then, finally, the officers and the general’s in the middle.

I follow him as he walks through the soldiers under his command, as he moves toward his own tent in the center. Many of them salute, some nod, others smile, and I can feel the way he delights in their attention, their admiration.

General Varus. If I didn't know him better I might have mistaken his ruthlessness for devotion.

But the moment is not quite right and my movements are detached and distant. The legionnaires watch me; the auxiliary’s words are lost to a fear that they don't quite understand. None of them speak of my presence and it is as if I am forgotten just as they look away. But I suppose they can sense something dangerous and I smile because their senses are right.

What they see is their own, I am beauty in some eyes, terror in others, unknown in my own. I see the way they will remember me like a dream, how they will tell of me as one of their goddesses, beautiful or ruthless or merciful.

I don't quite know which is closest to the truth.

And it is occuring to me that maybe I am no better than Varus, because I bathe in their eyes, their fear and awe and ignorance just as he does.

I can't find it in myself to care and I think that maybe I have lost something that will never come back.

By now, General Varus has arrived in his quarters and I have arrived with him. He is rubbing his face in a way that I know he wouldn't in front of the soldiers. I'm not so sure I can muster the will to feel sorry for him.

Varus’ hands pull away from his face in the moment before a legionnaire guard pushes aside the tent’s leather; I can see the way his defenses have risen once more.

“The Herculean chief, Segestes, claims to have important information. He has insisted that you see him immediately.”

I shift my gaze from the legionnaire, then back to Varus, and just as I can feel the way he will say no, Segestes himself pushes the soldier aside and storms into the tent with an air of defiance.

The legionnaire stutters, but I find I am surprised that he does a good job of hiding his fear. His hand reaches for the sword at his side.

“I’m sorry, General, shall I, uh, remove him?”

I watch Varus fight the urge to roll his eyes and the way he looks at the legionnaire is so small. His sense of superiority makes me laugh.

Glaring at Segestes, Varus mutters a curse under his breath, just soft enough that I am the only one who can hear him.

He turns to the legionnaire and I can see the way his expression changes, turning impassive, cool; the face of a Roman General.

“Leave us, Lucinius.”

The legionnaire nods and disappears behind the tent flap.

Varus studies the Chief; finally, he sighs and gestures to the chair opposite his small desk.

“There is a liaison for a reason, Segestes, so enlighten me. Why have you chosen to disturb me with this?”

The Chief meets Varus’ eyes and they burn, deathly serious. I find myself almost respecting him.

“You have a traitor amongst you.”

The General watches him with a stony expression, but his face is somber and serious. Varus replies coldly.

“And who might that be?”

“The liaison. Arminius.”

The General's amusement is obvious.

“Don't waste my time, Segestes.” And his eyes are wicked in a way that I am surprised to find myself recognizing. “Am I to believe that this has nothing to do with his…Shall I say? Fondness for your Thusnelda?”

Segestes clenched his jaw. “My daughter is betrothed, Varus, as you well know.”

I am watching the way the General’s eyes roar.

“You know that Arminius could very well be one who chooses to ignore those engagements. I will not have you wreaking havoc and spreading rumors. Get out.”

I turn away and laugh in a way they can hear; I feel the surprise in both of them, the way they stare at me, standing among them when seconds ago I was no one, nothing. When I speak, I can feel the chill that runs down the General’s spine.

“You would do well to listen to him, Varus.”

I wander the tent, brushing fingers over tables full of weapons and paper and ink. Slowly, I turn back to the men, who both bow heads in the presence of one they believe to be a goddess.

Maybe they are right.

I will never stop loving the way it feels when a powerful man bows at my presence.

A slow smile spreads across my mouth, but there is caution and doubt in Varus that I can feel even through his awe.

I will concede only the fact that he is brave to address me.

“Excuse me, my Lady, but…Who are you? And--and how could you know that?”

I am surprised when he holds my gaze, bold and dangerous, but I make my eyes sharp and he flinches as he might from a real blade.

“I will warn you once, Publius Quinctilius Varus, if you intend to leave Germania alive—if you intend to prevent the total destruction of your legions and the curses on you from Caesar Augustus himself, you will treat this warning as fact. You will gather your men and prevent a battle that will come to shake not only Romans, but the history of the world.”

There is one last sliver of doubt in his eyes as he breaks my gaze but his voice is strong and assured, even as he looks down at his hands on the desk.

“What must be done to avoid this?”

I catch the gaze of Segestes, his eyes are wide, shocked, and I tilt my head to study him further before answering.

“The Chief knows what must be done. Who must die and where they can be found.”

I look back at the General coldly.

“You would do well to listen to him, and to remember that I am not one for mercy when someone has failed to heed my warnings. Do not be a fool Varus.”

I leave before he can answer.


There is so much to find here, so many changes that could be made. I am thinking about the way the world could be different. The intricacies of language, the evolution of thought; a change here could turn the world into something else entirely.

I am watching the way Arminius looks at his general. There is a sort of fire in the back of his eyes, in the way he nods, as if holding back the urge to strangle him. Maybe he is.

When Varus walks away, I follow.

When Arminius walks away, I follow.

The gates of the encampment are not far, and I hear the lie Arminius spins as he makes his way toward them.

He walks the grounds with an air of superiority, he is better, not just in title, but in morality. They waste their lives serving Rome, serving the Empire and its petty conquests.

I can see how he revels in the way they will regret it.

He is sure in his steps, confident to the point of damning, and I find myself thinking that I will enjoy watching his world fall apart. His face is stern and cold, walking through those who think him a friend, a comrade. If all goes to plan, he will be responsible for their deaths, and I can see the way he will rather enjoy it.

A meeting, he tells the guards at the gate, and they smile and wave him away like they are old friends. I follow him into the mud and rain and I can feel the way he wants to sneer at them as he walks away.

I take in the messy ramparts that surround the camp, built of wood, they are precise in the way the Romans always are. I can hear the gurgle of water, the Weser river, where the camp rests along its shores. There is something about the sound of water that I find entrancing, something I will never tire of.

Dug deep into the rich earth surrounding the ramparts, a ditch runs in all directions; the mud and rain have made it treacherous. I follow him into the forest. Arminius trudges through the weather on unbeaten paths and winds around the trees as one might wander a maze. I feel his anticipation as we get closer--in the way his eyes dart over the trees, in the way he clenches his fists at his side.

It is growing dark around us and the shadows hide my footsteps, they shield me in their depths and I sometimes wonder if this is how the world shows its support, if this is the world making me its hero.

The tree that his father stands beneath towers over the others and when Arminius arrives, Segimer embraces him with a ferocity that surprises him.

They walk together in the kind of silence that is impatient, the kind that asks to be broken; but the quiet must continue its pleading, because the things that must be said are ones that ought not be heard by the wrong ears.

Arminius steals glances over his shoulder and I can hear the way his heart races.

It feels as if they walk for miles and I become the forest as it passes. I feel the wind through branches, I hear the way the birds might sing beneath the rain and how the trees pass their songs back and forth in bright melodies. I feel the way it changes, and the way it has changed and the way it will change.

Their allies come into view all at once, spread out in a clearing hidden by the rain and the trees. They greet Arminius and Segimer with appreciation, and when the treacherous words begin in murmurs and suspicion, I don't hear them in the way they speak their words, rather, I find that the plotting of traitors has come to sound the same to me; I see how they set up their ambush, how they will trap the legions from all sides.

I feel the hope that is in Arminius; he knows the way the soldiers move and the formations they might take. They discuss ways to use the familiar terrain to their advantage, and how the element of surprise will be on their side. Arminius understands their flaws; he understands how Rome’s faults can be used against it.

I can see the strategy they have formed and the way it will come together. Without me, their plans would work. The way they ambush the legions from high ground and reign death on their enemies with arrows and javelins and swords; they would have built the best fortifications and they would have not backed down from the reputation Rome hides behind.

I think about how Arminius had won.

Now, he will lose.

Doubts and worries and anxiety hover around the clearing, and I can see it in the way they move and how their eyes see the world in great haste. They look over their shoulders with hope that there will be nothing behind them to see.

But the rain is loud and the world is dark and looking like nothing is not so hard anymore.

Everything falls apart in slow motion.Varus himself leads the charge and I see the way Arminius understands. I feel the way it breaks his heart.

I watch as he pulls his sword from his belt and there is a sort of fury in his eyes that takes even me aback. He slashes at the soldiers with the sort of rage that is strong enough to hold someone together. The childhood years as a glorified hostage, taken from his family to serve the very people who destroyed him;I can feel it. The way he burns.

He cuts soldiers down, he dodges strikes and lands blows. But he is vastly outnumbered and I can hear the way a small voice in his head wants to flee. I think about how running will not help him, but there is something about his desperation that is almost admirable as he tries anyway.

The Romans are not fools however, and they surround the clearing with brutal efficiency. The message in their blades is clear. Nobody will face them and live.

I watch the way Arminius understands that this is a fight he cannot win.

I am wondering what he will do next; when one has accepted their own mortality, they come to find that there is simply nothing they cannot do. And I have found that sometimes it makes them reckless and sometimes it makes them hopeless and sometimes it makes them cowardly.

I know which category Arminius falls into when he locks eyes with Varus; I watch his recklessness charge the General and when their blades clash, I can see the way the world disappears from them. The only thing they are is how to dodge this slash and how to land that strike, they dance with violence and seek the other’s blood and when I watch them it is so thrilling that I am almost disappointed when one overpowers the other.

The General towers over Arminius, sneering, and when he pulls the knife from his belt it is already stained red.

“How they will praise me, Arminius, for ousting a filthy traitor.” I can see the way winning makes his eyes burn with power and how his words are almost giddy with the thrill of his own success. “I will triumph over your defeat and save history from your destruction.”

Absently, I wonder what Arminius might've said in reply, but his time has run out and the blade of Varus’ knife sinks into his heart.

And I can feel the way the world changes.

I can feel the story of history as it shifts and I can feel how the words are changing and how they have changed and how they will change.

I hear the final words in Arminius’ head and he is thinking in desperation that maybe Pluto will take pity on him.

There is only silence when he does not think again.

I glance at Varus, bloody and victorious, at Arminius, bloody and defeated.

And I turn from tragedy in the way only those accustomed to it can.

MysteryShort StoryHistoricalAdventure

About the Creator

lj blickensderfer

much better in writing

twit/insta: @ljblick

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  • Roy Stevens3 months ago

    Beautiful descriptive writing that gets at the heart of a chilling character. I like the concept as well. Great story!

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