The Centurion Cycle: Book Four ~ The Road to the Future

Chapter One: The Road to the Future ~ War Crimes

Field Marshal Lukas stood before the Federation court, his legs and hands in chains, stripped of his uniform, dressed only in red, the color that symbolized slavery in the west.

He had been taken to Sol, the heart of the Federation, instead of Jadoor since all the Federation nations had a claim on the man they blamed for so much suffering.

Standing at the head of the court was Aidan, King of Jadoor. Representing the strongest of the Federation nations, he sat in the chair of the High Judge. To his left was Supreme Matriarch Ashella of Manthannon. Since it had been her new weapon that had allowed the city walls of Sol to be breached, Aidan had found himself obliged to give her a seat on the panel. To his right was Lord Gustav, fief-Baron of Eb. His lands had been the most ravaged during the Centurion occupation.

All three sat on a high podium looking down at the accused. To their left, in a box, sat the witnesses. To the right, was the jury, made up of Federation Ambassadors from the different kingdoms.

After Aidan hit the gavel three times, he stood up to make his opening remarks. "Today, after a year of war we have a chance that we have never had in our history… to criminally punish the man who caused so much suffering to our people… the former Field Marshal from Domus… Lukas."

To this there were a few cheers, but mostly curses were thrown in Lukas' stoic face.

"In the summer of the year 4210, the Western Centurion Army under the command of Field Marshal Lukas began an all out invasion of the Federation, attacking Freen, Dorsa, and Yelding… making it as far as Uul. It was only then, by our united might, that we were able to turn the tide of the war. Jadoor, with its fleet, wiped out the Centurion armada at Eb. With aid from Manthannon, we were able to retake Sol, the heart of our Alliance. That, combined with the men of Rapa, Gladmore, Drakor, and even Austrola, forced the Centurions to do something they had never done before: surrender. That fact, though, does not bring back the tens of thousands of lives lost, or repair our looted cities. And that is why we are here today, to see the man who caused so much pain and sorrow face justice."

Aidan sat back down and waited for what Lukas would have to say. "I am a Field Marshal of the Domus Empire and as such I do not recognize this court as having any authority over me. In any case, I am guilty of nothing. Men… men worse than I, should

be facing trial here. Men like Zophar and Aegis, men who betrayed me and the empire. As the ruler of a nation, I am above such petty laws as you claim enable you to judge me. As a Field Marshal, I cannot be judged by anyone, for it was my right to make the decisions I made and I refuse to have them second guessed! If you hold me guilty for my actions as a leader of men, then all of you are equally guilty. No man or woman given the power over life and death is innocent of the lives that have been ruined by their commands."

That was the Former Field Marshal's only defense. For as long as there had been men in position over other men, there had been universal law protecting the rights that the nobility had as military officers.

In response, Aidan only smirked. "But you are no longer a Field Marshal Citizen Lukas. Your rights and privileges as leader of a nation are gone. You will face the judgment of this court, and it will be your own men who will condemn you."

The first to take the witness stand was Lieutenant Grast, a survivor of Eb, his body was skeletal from his time trapped on the island, but his voice was strong and determined as he addressed the court. He told about Lukas' selfish reasons for ordering the invasion… falling for Senator Peril's trick of framing Jadoor for an assassination attempt. Grast then spoke in great detail of how his men tried to follow the Field Marshal's orders to escape from Eb with the result being more death and suffering.

"So, do you feel the invasion of Eb was a mistake?" Ashella asked when he was done.

"It was obviously a trap from the beginning. Most of the captains felt so… they would tell you so if any survived," Grast replied. During his entire testimony Lukas refused to look at the man.

"One did survive… and has spoken to us about his attempt to escape Eb, and he agrees; any competent leader would have seen Eb for what it was." Ashella smiled.

"That is not the issue! I would have won and my men rescued if the Famulus rowers had not betrayed me!" Try the traitors not me!" Lukas insisted as the witness was dismissed. So enraged was Lukas that he strained against the chains that held him in place. With the strain on the chains, the wooden boards the chains were bound to began to break. A guard, seeing Lukas was about to break free, grabbed hold of an iron candlestick from the defense table and hit him on the back of his head.

His mind suddenly plunged into a fog, Lukas was helpless as more chains were tied to him and a pair of iron stocks bound around his legs. It was only as the court returned to order that Lukas felt his mind clear enough to see who had taken the witness stand: Commander Aegis.

"The court presents Commander Aegis Calador." Aidan banged the gavel.

Aegis was now sporting a pair of black wings, given to him by Aidan's bond; a bond only given in order to protect him from Dorian who thought Aegis was as much a traitor as Lukas.

This time, Lukas did turn his eyes toward the witness stand, hating the man with all his heart. He had learned that it was he, not Zophar, who had allowed the city to fall. Still, that did not mean his heart had softened towards the General. He held the general responsible for trusting his commander.

"Aegis, when Lukas says you are a traitor, do you believe him?" Aidan asked on Dorian's insistence.

"Did I betray him? Did I also betray Zophar? Yes, I did. But what I did was because of my loyalty toward my fellow men trapped on Eb, Sol, and to my lover. Just like at Eb, Lukas had sent us on a suicide mission to hold Sol. As a Centurion Commander, it is my job to protect my men above all other orders. As a Field Marshal, it was Lukas' responsibility to look out for the lives of his legions above all else. I held my oath to protect my men, he did not… that is why Lukas is the true traitor, not me or my general," Aegis spat.

A look of confusion and doubt appeared beneath the anger Lukas was showing, as Aegis left the witness stand.

After Aegis, came the villagers whose homes had been burned, and the merchants who had lost everything during the traditional looting of the cities. There were also the widows and orphans of men who had died at Centurion hands. During all their testimony, Lukas showed little or no emotion. He knew from the start of this sham trial that he would be found guilty. All he needed to do was wait for them to sentence him to death.

After all the testimony had been given, Aidan stood to give the judgment of the jury. "You, Lukas, the former Field Marshal of the Eastern Centurion Army, have been found guilty of crimes against both the innocent and your own men."

"So kill me… it will not bring back your loved ones. As you spill my blood, I see the future and prophesize that the unity you have today will one day fall. You will betray each other as my men betrayed me. The coming blood bath will make what I did to you look like a drop in an ocean." Lukas replied, almost laughing.

"That will be enough, Famulus." Aidan ordered, giving Lukas a deadly insult.

"Famulus! I am a Centurion!"

Ignoring him, Aidan continued with the sentencing. "As part of your punishment, the skin from your back is to be flayed, removing every tattoo that marked you as a Centurion. After that you will only be allowed to dress in black."

"I would rather be naked."

"I think you will find that quite impossible… as you are to be sent to the gulag in Drakor, where you will find it very cold."

"And you think I will mind that… I am 38 years old. Do you know what that means for a Centurion? It means I will be dead in two years. I have sentenced common thieves to lesser punishment."

"No you will not die," Aidan laughed knowingly. This was the part he had been waiting for. Two Demon Spawn entered the domed room and grabbed Lukas, holding him as Aidan approached. As the King of Jadoor joined Lukas on the defendant stand, the Spawn pried opened Lukas' mouth.

Aidan, giving the former Field Marshal nothing but a look of hatred, kissed him, letting his anima flow into Lukas' body. Once it was over, the Demon Spawn drew their swords and held them ready. Just as Lukas' black raven wings grew from his back, they were chopped off by the Demons' swords. Aidan picked them up and threw them into a fireplace, watching as the Spawn went to work slicing away skin and flesh from Lukas' back. It was only after the skin had healed with a layer of scar tissue that Lukas was released.

Humiliation. Lukas was filled with rage. Lunging forward, he tried to take hold of the king's throat, in a desperate attempt to strangle the life out of him. His hands barely moved three inches when they froze up in pain.

Aidan chuckled as he watched Lukas struggle. "You are part of me now… there is nothing you can do without me knowing. You can never act without my permission. From now on you will only be allowed to chip away at black shale, as you live out an empty life for the next eight hundred years,"

"I don't believe you!" Lukas swore as the Demon Spawn began to drag him away.

"You will, and on that day you will know what true suffering is… to live a life without freedom," Aidan swore as he watched the former Field Marshal taken away, content that justice had been done.

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