In the spring of 58 BCE the Celtic tribe of Helvetii, then settled in present-day west
-central Switzerland and pressured by Germanic tribes from across the Rhine River,
voted to migrate to lands in Gaul near the Atlantic Ocean. Gaius Julius Caesar opposed
their passage through a Roman province, subsequently defeating an army eleven times
larger than his available legions. In eight campaign seasons, Caesar made Gaul part of
Rome’s growing empire: Roman institutions of government, law, and customs were
veneered onto those of the Celts. The Gallo-Roman culture that prospered formed the
matrix for much of modern European civilization. That long ago Helvetian decision was the determining factor in ending a millennium of Celtic dominance in Europe, yet the Roman conquest assured that when devastating barbarian invasions erupted in the third to sixth centuries, those Germanic and Gothic tribes eventually would become Latinized.
This novel personalizes the Celtic struggle against Caesar by those tribesmen who
opposed him, those who supported Rome, and of the legion commanders who believed
that bringing Romanitas-their concept of civilization-to the known world was the sacred
destiny of Rome.
Book 1. After his father is killed by raiding Germanic warriors, Alberix, his mother
and two uncles resettle in his aunt’s village. One uncle is a crafter, the other a druid who teaches him arcane lore that controls Celtic gods. When Romans arrive to build
watchtowers and warn of a Helvetii tribal migration, Alberix learns Roman concepts
of justice from Lucius. A clique of warriors harass the outsiders, while a rival druid
preaches rebellion. When the Helvetii move into Caesar’s province and suffer defeat,
a chieftain warns Alberix to find a leader among his people. Plots continue for a rebellion he is urged to join, but after a horrifying druidic ritual, he flees to Lucius and
enlists in a Roman auxiliary unit. To impress Germanic tribes, Caesar bridges the Rhine.
Alberix is lured across to a village where legion defectors train warriors in Roman tactics.
The chief’s daughter forms an escape plan, if Alberix will take her to Gaul, but he returns
alone. Caesar, envisioning a Gallo-Roman province, offers Alberix a future leadership role.
Yet, assailed by doubts over his “Celticness,” and hearing of Vercingetorix, a rebel king,
Alberix decides to speak with him. Ravens, the Celtic birds of death, follow him as he rides
into central Gaul to find the leader.
Julius Caesar's Political successes earn him the governorship of two provinces and three legions. Although absent in Gaul, he has effectively run the gov-ernment with Pompey and Crassus. After Caesar's Helvetian victory, he remains in Gaul to defeat a Germanic king encroaching Celtic lands. Yet as Gallic tribes resent the presence of legions, talk of rebellion flares, and culminates in the massacre of Roman merchants and attacks on legion camps.
A rebel leader emerges in the person of Vercingetorix. With ten legions in Gaul, Caesar establishes a chain of camps, pacifies some tribes and defeats others, but an attack on Vercingetorix's stronghold at Gergovia fails.
Rather than follow up his victory, the king retreats to the fortress of Alesia. Caesar surrounds the site with deadly ground obstacles and twin defensive walls. In a prolonged siege, Roman tactics defeat a Gallic relief army. Vercingetorix sur-renders and is sent to Rome for execution. Desite his victories, much of the Sen-ate is hostile to Caesar's reforms and declares him a public enemy. Caesar wins a devastating civil war, but is assassinated in 44 B.C. Gaul recovers an prospers under a Pax Romanitas.
Book 2: In Alberix's search for Vercingetorix, he witneses a solstice birth ritual by Ollam Fodla that predicts failure for a rebellion. The king is present, so Alberix hears his plan to unify Gaul and fight Rome. He and Simonides scout Gergovia, where Vercingetorix is first expelled, but are captured by his warriors. At Wermaros
Arvos murders Cluvios and burns his body. Infatuated with Apsa, she kills Arvos during arpe attempt. Druid Triccos tries the slave woman for muder, but she is exonerated by a torc of Cluvios found in Arvos's hut.
When Alberix refuses to join the rebellion, Vercingetorix mutilated and expels him from his camp. The king repulses a Roman attack on Gergovia. yet retreats to Alesia, where he surrenders after a brutal siege. Assigned to escort the king to Rome with Lucius, Alberix first rescues his mother and aunt from Wermaros, torched by Triccos.
At Rome, Briga and Apsa are abducted in a failed plot to free Vercingetorix. A Roman settlement arises on the site of Alberix's father's destroyed village; Alberix is elected a magistrate and realizes his future as foretold on the Celtic Wheel of Life.