marina_bonomi (marina_bonomi) wrote,
marina_bonomi
marina_bonomi

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Imagine if China and Italy...

had been close allies for about 2000 years, how would world history be different?

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about; The Lost and Found Legion about the idea of the embassy and the identity of the ambassador and the , as yet unpublished The Tea Tempest.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.

Tags: alternate history, china, history, italy, poetry, shared world, silk road allies, writing
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  • (no subject)

    Silenzio l'ombra della diga sul campanile.

  • Patreon

    After a bit of waffling, I told myself:'Why not?' and took the plunge. As of today I'm on Patreon, there you'll find (if so inclined) my haiku,…

  • (no subject)

    I'd been struggling with writer's block for quite a while, recently I decided to get back into play-by-email role-playing to see if I could shake…