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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 2

            During the next few years Bartolf was scarcely seen at home. The Second Punic War raged. Hannibal Barca prepared for the final battle at Zama. Roman armies gathered outside of Carthage, under the leadership of General Scipio. Sadly, the summer and early fall of 202 BC marked the destruction of the Carthaginians. General Barca and his followers were forced to flee. Many of his troops found themselves in Hadrumetum, relying on friends and relatives to take them in and give them refuge. Four showed up at Rolfin’s home. Two were cousins to his mother and the other two were the cousin’s friends. Weary and beaten, the sorry sight touched Ib’s heart. She and Rolfin welcomed them into their home where Bane, Zuna, Tyson and Arno resided for five years. Rolfin spent his days working as a carpenter, learning the trade. The other men found jobs where they could; Bane worked as a shipbuilder, Zuna as a dyer, Tyson as a potter and Arno worked at a local food market. This pleased Ib as Arno often brought fresh fruit and vegetables home for their family. Each night after Rolfin came home, his cousins, Bane and Arno, taught him how to fight and the ways of soldiering. Tyson and Ib fell in love and married. A year later they had a baby girl. They named her Burill.

When Rolfin’s sister was six months old, he took her for a walk down to the seaport, carrying her in his arms. A ship had just docked and as Rolfin pointed out the water and birds to the baby, he saw his brother. “Bartolf? He’s back?”

Bartolf strolled down the wooden ramp with four women on his arms and three toddlers following behind. He spotted his younger brother with a baby. “You’re rather young to be having children, aren’t you little brother. You’ve got a lot to learn. You should have waited a while.”

Rolfin stood in front of his brother. “This isn’t my baby. It’s yours and my little sister. Burill, this is your big brother, Bartolf. And who do you have with you?” His gaze wandered to the Phoenician women.

“These are my wives, Suraat, Jadaayil, Shuuriit, and Majdal, and these are my children, Andora, Nica, and Jorgo.” 

“Wives? Children? You have four wives?” Rolfin gaped at the women. Each had deep brown eyes and long, flowing dark brown hair.

“Stop your drooling, little brother. They are my wives, not yours. Children, go with your Uncle Rolfin and Auntie…”

“Burill. Her name is Burill,” Rolfin said.

“Go with Auntie Burill. Mother?” Bartolf just realized his mother had to have been pregnant to have a baby. “She had another child? How can this be?”

“I’d have thought by now you knew about childbirth and conception. Mother  married a man named Tyson. He’s a Carthaginian soldier that survived the Battle at Zama. He and three others, two of which are our cousins, have been living with us since Carthage was destroyed. Mother is very much in love with him. Don’t you be causing trouble, Bartolf. Come on, children, let’s go and meet your grandmother.” The three little ones rushed over to their uncle and followed him to the house. Bartolf sauntered behind, showing off his beautiful wives as they passed through the city.

Bartolf practically kicked in the door to the house. “Mother!”

She came running, a smile spread across her face. “Bartolf! I just met my grandchildren. They’re lovely. And these are your wives? You should introduce us.”

Bartolf muttered something to his wives and they stepped back. “I want to speak with you, Mother, now.” He held her arm and guided her outside. “What is the meaning of this? You’ve remarried? Did my father mean nothing to you? How could you do this?”

Ib pulled her arm free. “Your father is dead. He was nothing but a bully to me and to Rolfin. Tyson treats me like a queen and I love him. I am happy. Our home is happy. My cousins, Bane and Arno showed up five years ago with Tyson and Zuna. They’re hard workers and have helped keep this house in good repair. They bring food to the table and joy to my heart. If you don’t like it, you can take your four wives and go elsewhere. I’m finished letting you or your father push me around like an animal.”

Bartolf stood in silence. In his twenties now, he’d grown into quite a man. A sneer spread across his face. “You’ve gotten quite brave since I’ve been gone, haven’t you, Mother. Don’t you realize what is going on outside this happy world you have here? The Romans are destroying Carthage. Every building has been razed, burned to the ground; the soil has been sown with salt. There is nothing left but ruins. Hannibal is presumed dead. You are in danger by harboring Carthaginian soldiers. Don’t you understand that?”

“Don’t be foolish, Bartolf. Many of the residents in Hadrumetum are sharing their homes with the soldiers. Most of the men have settled down with wives and have become part of our city. They aren’t soldiers any more. They are residents of Hadrumetum.” Ib turned her back to her son.

“I think I’ll take my wives and your grandchildren to one of the local inns. It’s obvious we won’t fit in with your new family.” Bartolf opened the door and called to his wives. They grabbed the children and ran outside in fear.

“Bartolf, please leave the children with me for a while. I want to play with them and get to know them. They are my grandchildren.” Ib wailed as the wives clenched the little ones.

“Not any more. Goodbye, Mother.” He turned and walked towards the center of the city, leaving his sobbing mother at the door.

 After supper that night, Ib sent Rolfin out with a basket of fresh fruit for one of their elderly neighbors. While he was gone the house was attacked. Roman soldiers pounded the door in, swords drawn. “Where are the Carthaginian soldiers?” The one in charge sent the others to search the house. They appeared a few minutes later with Zuna, Arno, Tyson and Bane. Tyson held Burill in his arms. “Traitors. You are cowards. Instead of standing up with your leader, you flee into this home. Kill them.”

Ib took Burill from Tyson’s arms and pleaded with the soldier. “They’re good men. They are hard workers and part of this community. I beg of you to spare their lives.”

The soldier nodded. The others slew the men right in front of Ib, piercing their hearts with heavy swords and then turned to Ib. “I will show the folly of harboring the enemy by making an example of you.” The man jerked Burill from her arms and slaughtered the infant; he then turned to Ib and ran the sword through her chest. Bartolf appeared at the door, his mouth agape. A gasp escaped his lips; the soldier heard and turned around to greet him, wiping the blood off his sword with Ib’s dress. “You will be rewarded for turning in these traitors.”

Bartolf stared at the river of blood flowing from his mother and sister. A lump grew in his throat, but he dismissed it. “Thank you, Adrian. There are others. I shall find them for you.” The soldier pulled a bag of coins from his belt and tossed it at Bartolf.

Rolfin rushed into the house. He saw his slain family. “Mother? Burill? Tyson? What has happened here? Who did this?” With fury raging in his blood, he ran at the soldier. Bartolf grabbed him and held him back.

“Little brother, I suggest you leave now, before you end up this way.” Bartolf glanced at the bag of coins the Roman had just given him. “Here is some money. Take it and leave Hadrumetum immediately.”

“Did you do this, Bartolf? Did you arrange to have them murdered?” Rolfin went back inside and knelt by his mother. He held her in his arms. “Mother, what has he done?” He pulled his sister over to him. “Burill, my sweet baby, I’m so sorry.”

“Rolfin. Leave now or you will die,” Bartolf shouted.

Rolfin marched over to his brother. “You are no longer my brother. I will never forget this, Bartolf. You are worse than our father could ever think of being.” He spat in his brother’s face and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

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