Britannia, 43 A.D.
Winter had come early this year. Aulus Plautius, Rome’s lead general in Britain surveyed the land, standing on a small hill overlooking the snow encrusted landscape. His generals stood by his side as they evaluated their situation and discussed strategy.
Nearly half a kilometer away, hugging the frozen Medway River, a large force was gathering. They would be a formidable foe, made up of four different local tribes, and they were not planning on letting him or his army pass.
The wind suddenly picked up.
Above the area where the tribes had gathered, dark clouds appeared. Day turned to night. Bolts of blue lightning flashed across the sky. Stunned by the awesome spectacle, the tribesmen stood their ground, staring upward.
It was all over in under a minute as multiple bolts of lightning slammed into the ground from the dark clouds above them, smashing gaping holes into the landscape and taking out nearly the entire force. Those that were not dead or injured ran for their lives, and what remained of the once formidable force lay in ruins.
Plautius observed the scene and turned to his generals. “Well, another victory for our Emperor. That was easy,“ he said.
A little too easy.
Twenty-one years ago
Little Melton, England
It was a drab and rainy day in Little Melton, a neat little village set into the side of rolling green hills on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk counties in England. The village itself was fairly typical for the region and would not have received any attention were it not for the Tudor heritage bestowed upon it by Henry VIII many centuries ago.
Bassinth Hall, a manor house that stands less than a kilometer away from the village, reflects everything Britain is proud of: heritage, history, grandeur, and power.
On the grounds surrounding the Tudor Hall, fourteen-year-old John Bassinth, future Earl of Melton, ignored the splashing rain as he made his way to a new hiding spot in the gardens. With nearly eighteen hectares of land around the buildings, there were plenty of spaces to play hide-and-seek, but John had decided on a new favorite spot today.
He looked back at the imposing building, making sure no one could see him. The Hall had been built in 1540, near the end of Henry VIII's reign. Constructed in the classic style of the period, featuring a hand-made red brick produced in the region, it counted three floors and an impressive thirty bedrooms. Connecting the indoor spaces to the fabulous English garden outside were countless glass doors that allowed the house to flow seamlessly into the open space outside.
As with any other manor house of that period, the gardens were considered to be an extension of the house—and Bassinth Hall had it all: near perfect rose gardens, a large lake surrounded by a controlled, but wild-looking forest on one side, and an endless lawn leading up to the house from the four corners of the estate. On the far side of the property stood quite a few hectares devoted to the noblest of animals—horses.
All these luxuries had become part of daily life for John Bassinth, eldest son and future earl. But this was furthest from his mind as he ran down the lawn toward the lake. He knew his younger brother Andrew would be after him. If he wanted to win this game of hide-and-seek, he would have to find a really good spot.
His brother, two years younger, was the only other child in the family. A sister Ann had died many years ago after falling ill at the age of six. He had never really known her, too young to remember, but it had devastated his parents, and since that time, they had often lived separate lives in the great house.
He ran faster to ensure he could reach the tree line before being seen. His brother always had a knack for finding him. Although he was younger, he had spent a large part of his free time out hunting with their dad, unlike John who preferred to spend time in the vast family library, reading or building scale models of cars. With nearly ten years of hunting experience, Andrew's tracking skills were some of the best anyone had ever seen, and John knew that even a crushed twig would be like a signpost.
Pushing past the first trees, he spurted along the two hundred-meter long pathway that led into the forest, treading as lightly as he could at that speed, careful not to leave too much of a trail. His feet splashed on the wet ground, small waves of muddy water pushing outward before the hole quickly filled back up in his absence. Damn, John thought, another clear marker for his brother to find.
A minute into the trail, he saw his destination—the family's mausoleum where over ten generations of his ancestors lay. One day, he too would be laid to rest there.
He knew this would be the only place where Andrew would never think to look. This would be the day—the first day ever—that his brother would not be able to find him! The fact that he was ignoring his father's rules played no part in his decision—the mausoleum was strictly off-limits—but that also meant he would not be found.