Chapter 5 - Setting priorities

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An online friend of mine drew Phyllis back when she was still in her fanfic days. I still adore this picture to death. I think it is a life goal of mine to get pictures for all my characters. Once a comic lover, always a comic lover!


Marcus all but dragged her away, clearly intent on putting half the village between them and Cornelis in less than a minute. She had to jog to keep up with him, and it started to irritate her fast.

They would never meet his target anyway. Phyllis had always imagined Gaul villages to be small. Once she actually travelled to Gaul she discovered that while some of them were, others were Roman cities in size. And yet other ones, like Lugdunum and Lutetia, actually became Roman cities. This was not a Roman city, either in size or looks, but the village, called Abhan, had acres and acres of land within its outstretched stone walls, so wide there hardly seemed to be enough heads to cultivate all the diverse crops they held. Herbs being her stronghold she had recognized coriander and fennel fields. They had survived last winter. But the plants in Mesmer thrived compared to Abhan's meager bushes. Under Philip's knowledge and her care, not to mention their special greenhouse project, they even bloomed while the pond near the orchard was still frozen. She had to tell Philip about the difference when they got home. He would like that.

As far as she knew, most of the fields here were dedicated to food. Barley and emmer. Smaller ones with crops she didn't recognize. Maybe they were meant for textile. They didn't have that at Mesmer. Marcus kept telling Biancus they should. Hemp and flask. Phyllis found the idea atrocious. In a school consisting of ninety percent women, the major part of them fairly creative, there was no doubt they would decide to take up weaving as a hobby. No bored students left to seduce into a rooftop party, while they drowned in dresses to show off with.

Phyllis had acquired a minimum of farming knowledge since Biancus had insisted on tutoring her on the matter while she learned to ride Goliath.

Marcus was a better teacher. But Goliath had taken longer to warm up to him than she had to Biancus. So in the beginning, it had been their large, soft one-army man who had taken it upon himself to assist Phyllis with her attempts to ride. On blank acres of land, with spring around the corner. Just like today.

It was early March, and the morning air was bright but cold. She despised the cold. She pulled her cape around her. Since it was always somewhat too long (would people ever notice she wasn't growing anymore?) the ends dragged over the tidy but sandy paths between the wood fenced fields. They soiled the hem of her forest green cape until it was brown with dust..

And she kept tripping over the stupid thing. She threw it off in frustration, both with Marcus and the cape. Her white tunic and black pants hardly provided solace against the cold, but at least she could move. Bonny always complained about the black pants, since apparently Mesmer had a uniform and it was white. Riding a horse with white pants turned them gray anyway, so Phyllis felt justified to ignore her. And she couldn't part with the extra layer of clothes. Not for another month, at least. She wasn't born for fierce winters. Maybe that was the one part of her that would forever be Roman.

"Let me look at it," she ordered.

Marcus slowed down. They were amid their tents at the north side of the village now, their camp set on a stretch of land that seemed uncultivated. Resting. Trust Marcus to make sure he didn't trample potential crops. She would have destroyed half of them before even noticing that.

Marcus stared down at her. His eyes narrowed as they travelled over her.

"Why are you in your riding gear?" he asked.

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