Alexander Gregorvich: Dark Ages
by Cylis Derrens
After the fall of Rome Europe was ruled by barbarian and local warlords whose only interest seemed to be maintaining their own power base and squabbling for more land. One man: Lokar Nemer rose to power in Southern Gaul and offered protection to the farms and towns around his keep in exchange for food and other resources he might need. The common people, desperate to end their suffering agreed to this exchange, and King Lokar true to his word put those resources to good use. Hiring more men he began patrols of his land while he built a great wall surrounding his territory. This was purely a defensive measure, hinting that Lokar had little intention of extending his borders, unlike his more war-like neighbors. All he wanted to was keep what he had by keeping the people who trusted him safe. Fighting off the occasional raid into his lands, he completed the wall and manned it with most of his troops. Signal fires and watch towers were spread throughout its length, leaving no gap an enemy could quietly try to sneak through.
If that weren't enough, siege weapons from the days of Rome's greatest glory were also mounted on top of the walls, and used on any would be invader. With his defense set Lokar turned to the cultivation of his lands and the improvement of his people's lives. He designed and oversaw construction of rain traps in even the smallest tows and farmsteads, while in his capital city of Nem he built reservoirs both above and beneath the ground. Using underground waterways and pumps he brought the water to his citizens that was much cleaner than what they might find in a river, stream or lake. Once the water traps were setup he created relief outlets should they be overfilled that would allow them to drain into nearby fields set aside for farming. To make sure his farmers were not starving either themselves or their fields of water he created a second irrigation system just for agriculture by tapping into running bodies of water and using water gates, so the farmers could control where the water went.
These advancements did not go unnoticed by those outside his great wall, and more often than not stimulated one of two responses: seeking to be a vassal or ally to share in them, or the other was trying to take all these new advancements by force through force of arms. The second choice did not work well for the attacking force as large metal projectiles and rocks were hurled at them as they tried to approach. Unaccustomed to dealing with siege weapons and well built fortifications, most armies quit the field, and those that didn't found Lokar was not a fool or a weakling. By sun set often their heads dressed a pike that was set before the gates. This form of intimidation quickly discouraged anyone from thinking the lands of Nemer were easy pickings.
For those who chose to seek peach and help from him Lokar offered trade alliances to neighboring nobles, and to the common folk who sought his protection he built new walls that connected back to the original and had gates on the inside that allowed his army to march in and out. This was of course limited to those who settled or already lived near him, as the farther he extended his walls, the more mobile his army would have to become to cover all that area: a wall was a deterrent, not a foolproof way of keeping the enemy out. In response many commoners actually relocated so they could be included in the lands of this new king. Lokar, seeing trouble on the horizon bent his mind on improving his defenses once again so he would be ready for what he considered to be an inevitable attack. The people of Nemer loved and trusted their king and had little trouble preparing for such an attack. Thus far he had led them to one victory after another. His preparations for what might not come had saved them from supposedly superior forces. If they had any complaint it was that the King had no heir.
He was so busy improving things that Lokar had left no time for a social life. It was only under the urging of court and his allies that he agreed to considered taking some time out of his busy day for courtship. Unfortunately Lokar was very picky in his choices for mates. Though polite about it, he had turned down almost every daughter from a powerful noble family among his allies. Some began to grumble that Lokar loved bachelorhood too much and was just making excuses to stay that way. As far as the King was concerned he wasn't going to rush into a marriage with a woman he was honestly not in love with. In this life he would not deny himself that great comfort, of course he never said any of that last part out loud.
Sighing one morning as yet another ambassador talked up another possible wife for him, Lokar ended his meetings for that day and spent most of the rest in seclusion in the highest tower where he made many of his plans. That night he slipped out of his castle in disguise, and slipped into a nearby village. Overjoyed with finally having a break he happened by a shepherd's daughter in the moonlight, searching for a lost lamb.
"Please sir, have you seen a young lamb nearby? My father is very sick and it was my responsibility to look after the flock." The young woman said.
"Unfortunately I have not, but allow me to help you in your search. I am ... Lo. I am from the city and hoped for a nice ride in the countryside to get away from the troubles of city life." Lokar said.
"I am Nemoway. I'm sorry to trouble." She said, her dark brown hung loosely in warm summer breeze and her beauty though not enhanced by her commonly clothing kept his attention
Lokar dismounted to help her up saying, "It's no trouble."
Together they searched for the sheep and when Nemoway heard a familiar bleating she had them stop and dismounted. Deeply tangled in a bush the lamb was calling for help. After a few moment the woman managed to free the creature and carried the lamb back to Lokar. Helping her up, he handed her the animal and walked the horse back as they rode. It was late at night before they arrived at her home.
Dismounting Nemoway said, "I can't thank you enough kind sir for your help today. Could I perhaps offer you some food or perhaps lodging until morning? It is the least I can do."
Bowing to her Lokar said, "Merely being in the presence of so lovely a lady is reward enough. I am almost ashamed to ask..."
Though she blushed Nemoway said, "Please speak."
"Could I perhaps see you again? Maybe two nights from now when I headed back out this way?" Lokar asked.
"You are a strange man, but charming none the less. I would be happy to see you again." Nemoway said and carried the lamb away.
Lokar smiled as he rode back to the castle and snuck back inside. Two nights later he snuck out again, finding his horse well fed and stationed beyond the walls as he had planned. Riding out he came directly to her doorstep and found Nemoway waiting on the porch in a lovely dress.
"My father got better and is out visiting one of our neighbors. He said that outside of Nemer a man would not be able to leave his daughter at home alone, for fear that she might come to harm by evil men. My father blesses the day that our king decided to protect us from such things, now these lands are the safest in the world." Nemoway said looking up at the stars, and glancing at her companion.
"I am sure the king is glad that you feel that way; you and your father." Lokar said.
"I had the strangest feeling that you wanted to kiss me when we last met." Nemoway said watching him carefully with gleeful eyes.
Grinning Lokar said, "I thought I hid my desire to do so well. It appears I am not as good of an actor as I thought I was."
"I have never been to a play. They say that the rich people of the city see many of them." Nemoway commented wistfully.
"And some of the poor. They have street performers in Nem." Lokar said.
"Truly?" Nemoway asked in wonder.
"Truly." Lokar said happy to see her smile at the thought of it.
"I would like to see something like that, but the city is so far away, and I can't leave my father." Nemoway said.
"Perhaps I could arrange it. My family and I know a few people." Lokar said.
"It's too expensive. You shouldn't worry about such things." Nemoway said trying to hide the look of hope in her eyes, but Lokar spotted it.
"It's no trouble at all, but I do require something in return: a kiss." Lokar said with a grin.
"You are shameless, do you know that?" Nemoway teased.
"Is that a no?" Lokar said looking deep into her eyes until she was forced to look away as her heart began to beat faster.
"And when would I have to give you this kiss?" Nemoway said and turned again to face him.
At that moment Lokar's lips met hers and she was caught by surprise. At first she stiffened at the shock, but quickly relaxed and yielded to seemingly experienced mouth.
When their lips parted she asked, "How many women have kissed by using such an offer? You seem to know what you are doing."
"That's because I planned out this entire visit." Lokar replied.
"So what happens next?" Nemoway asked.
"You kiss me again." Lokar said and she did.
"What the hell?" Someone shouted.
Breaking their kiss both of them turned in the direction of the voice in time to see a man running to the house.
"That's my father, but what is he doing?" Nemoway commented.
"Something tells me I don't want to stay here and find out. I'll see you later." Lokar said giving her one final peck on the lips before running for his horse.
As he mounted he saw her father running out of the house carrying an axe. Kicking in his heels Lokar rode off.
"Come back here you little scoundrel!" The bearded older gentleman shouted as he ran after him.