A few days ago ysabetwordsmith left a prompt to thesilentpoet:
In 97 AD, Chinese General Pan Chao sent an embassy to the Roman empire, but little came of it. Suppose China and Italy had united, how would that change things?
This poem was the result, outlining a whole timeline. If you know me you can imagine the rest, I wanted more and wanted to see what ysabetwordsmith herself would do with a few prompts related to this alternate-history universe, thesilentpoet agreed as well.
The result were The Treasures of Marco Polo based on a couple of items listed in an inventory after Marco's death he never spoke about; The Lost and Found Legion about the idea of the embassy and the identity of the ambassador and the , as yet unpublished The Tea Tempest.
I was reading about the real embassy sent by general Ban Chao and how in Chinese documents it is said that ambassador Gan Ying turned back because of the info he got from some Parthian sailors about the lenght of the remaining leg of his trip to Rome and the dangers involved. Fact is that Parthians and Scythians were the middlemen of the silk trade and wouldn't have been too happy if the two empires started dealing with each other directly.
I couldn't help but imagine a pair of Parthians trying the same stunt on a very different ambassador, ysabetwordsmith 's Cai Luoma, the result was:
Cai Luoma and the Parthians
They tried it on him, the two Parthian brothers.
The older spoke first, in sorrowful tones:
“This sea, o my friend, is so vast and large,
With terrible storms, and many hidden dangers;
It may take years to cross it at all”.
Then spoke the younger, with honeyed words:
“ This we say to you in token of friendship,
Your faraway lord, no matter how wise,
Could not have known the dangers you face”.
Insisted the brothers, concern in their voices:
“Providing for many, your friends and retainers,
Will tax your resources, will leave you stranded,
Turn back while you can, we speak out of care”.
Greed moved their hearts, lies were they crafting,
But wise Cai Luoma, clear-eyed, brave-hearted
Eluded the trap of honeyed words.
He knew that the Parthians, old enemies of Rome,
Now traded in silk from empire to empire.
No love had they for an envoy from China
Entrusted to go, and treat with the Romans.
“ I thank your kind hearts,” he said to the brothers,
“Tomorrow we leave, We’ll head straight back home”.
He did not trust them, and lulled suspicions
But crafted a plan, while playing the fool.
And the morning after, just as the sun rose
The ambassador’s party was seen leaving town
With carriages and horses, with coffers and banners
While earlier that night, a nondescript group
In silence, by moonlight, had boarded a ship
Which now headed West, to Europe, and Rome.
His people all safe, all gathered on board,
Cai Luoma now laughed at what was in store.
For him an adventure well worthy of song
And for the two brothers, and all their cohorts
If gods were willing, and fates propitious
Maybe in a while, few years down the road
A nasty surprise would catch them unaware.
‘Cause friends talk to each other, need no middlemen.
If you like my work and feel like it, tips are appreciated.