October 1st, 2005

A Tablet From Vinlandia

Up here on the Wall I sometimes get to thinking that the Empire has forgotten us.

Last night I entertained the young officer who commands the reinforcements that arrived yesterday afternoon from Eboracum.

It was raw and misty. It usually is. The air had ice in it.

My cook had prepared ptarmigan. Ptarmigan in squid sauce. We drank wine from my family's vinyards on Vectis.

He is a cheerful young man, with metropolitan airs and graces, his thick, curly hair slicked up and perfumed with bear-grease. I feel sorry for him.

"So what did you think of Serenity?" he asked, chewing on a tiny wish-bone.

I eyed him blankly.

"You know," he urged, "it's sorta like the sequel to Firefly."

I shook my head. "The things that are the talk of the Empire take months to reach us here- years even."

"You mean you haven't even seen Firefly yet?"

I smiled sourly.

His face went pale. It was dawning on him just what it would mean to him to be stationed up here at the edge of the world- how much like exile it was.

Just then a noise like the torturing of a cat came squalling up from the vicus. "What in the names of all the gods is that?" he asked, appalled.

"That is a thing called the pipes," I drawled. "It is what the Picts do for entertainment." I let the enormity sink in. "They dance too," I added. "The Pictish men- in skirts."