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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: The Nemesis of Italy
By Peter Stone


Psalm 107 (NIV) 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.

Trudging nervously along a paved Roman road built hundreds of years ago merely reminded the small band of men that Rome once wielded significant power that had faded away to be replaced by corruption and weakness. The men had just crossed the Mincio River in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. They crested grassy hills and descended to the depths of intervening valleys.

27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end.

Several paces ahead of the group their leader walked with a relaxed gait. Although a frail man with thinning hair and beard he wore with pride a white robe embroidered with red and green crosses and held a Latin Bible.

Two Roman officials who normally exuded confidence and charisma followed fearfully in their leaderís wake: Consul Avienus held Romeís highest public office, and Prefect Trigetius was a high ranking military official. Behind them came three-dozen priests and Roman officials. All staggered along with a sense of dread and apprehension at the sight of the great cloud of dust billowing into the air ahead of them. The nemesis of Italy was driving his victorious army down this very road Ė not only were they directly in his path, they had been sent to stop him by the Emperor.

28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.

Shortly thereafter the Romans were surrounded by hundreds of fierce horsemen wielding powerful bows. Although they rode small steppe horses, their reputation filled the Romans with terror. These same Huns had razed the city of Aquileia to the ground and slain every citizen.

"Oh Lord, remember us!" cried a priest.

"Have mercy on us, oh Lord!" said another

"Save us, Lord," wailed a third.

Even Consul Avienus lifted his voice. "Oh God, don't you care that Rome and all of Italy is going to be destroyed? "

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

The swirling nomadic horseman came to stop a mere ten paces from the Romans. The Hunnic warlord rode to the Roman leader and glared down at him. The Hun had dark skin and a thin black beard sprinkled with gray. His shoulders were broad and his nose flat. He wore simple unembroidered leathers and furs. The Roman leader stood calmly waiting as though it was he who was in charge of this conflict and not the Hun.

Attila the Hun lifted his hand and a Sicilian rode forward. "Who is this
old man who stands so serenely before me?"

The Sicilian answered in a hushed voice, "Sire, he is the head of the church, Pope Leo the First."

"And he comes to me without a military escort? Impressive. Ask him this - what reason can he give that I should not slay him and destroy his city."

The Sicilian translated as Pope Leo answered the question thoughtfully. "Man may plan and scheme, but it is God who created the world and set the Sun, Moon and stars in their places. What power does man have compared to the Creator? Man can only do that the Lord permits him to do. If I die today and Rome is destroyed, this is not something about which the Huns can boast. All the Huns can say is that they did these things because God permitted them to do so. Because mark my words, if God wants to stop you, He will."

As Attila listened to the Pope's answer his expression changed to one of understanding and respect. Finally he laughed and lifted his arm in the air. As one the Huns turned about and returned the way they had come.

30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.

Standing back from the Pope, Consul Avienus did not hear what had been said but shouted in triumph when the Huns departed, "We are alive!"

"What ever did he say?" asked Prefect Trigetius.

All the accompanying priests and officials congratulated each other on this unexpected victory.

Pope Leo turned and said, "Why did you doubt? Our Lord excels at calming such storms. Now come, let us go home."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 09/21/07
Oh very good. I'm not too familiar with the story, but you brought it alive. I also liked how you wove the verses into the story.
Sherrie Jackson09/23/07
Great job on this story! You have me wanting to look it up now. ;-) The verses were perfect and Pope Leo is definitely the epitome of calm. I also really like the title. Good luck!
Janice Cartwright09/23/07
Extremely professional with a ring of authenticity. History comes to life in your story.
Gregory Kane09/24/07
This is excellent and very well researched. I consider myself a church history buff and I couldnít fault your attention to detail.
The biggest problem that I can see with your piece is that it will go over the heads of most people. Leo is a great figure in church history but largely ignored outside of catholic circles and your readers wonít know whether your story is set in the fifth century or the fifteenth. So you need to find some way of helping them to connect historically.
Jan Ackerson 09/24/07
Love the structure of this piece--very effective.
Joanne Sher 09/24/07
Excellent description - very vivid. And I absolutely LOVE the weaving of the psalm into it. Wonderfully done, Peter. SO glad I asked for an extra hint :)
Catrina Bradley 09/24/07
Super! I hadn't heard this historical story before, but I like your rendition regardless. The Psalm woven in reflected underlying calmness, and the peace of Pope Leo.
Sheri Gordon09/27/07
This is an incredible story. Your writing captured my attention from the beginning, and held it throughout. I really enjoyed reading this piece of history. Great job.
David Butler10/02/07
Brilliant. I only had a vague knowledge of Pope Leo's confrontation with Attila the Hun, so I found this fascinating.
I can't agree with Gregory that it will go over most peoples' heads. I think there are enough clues even for those who have a scratchy knowledge of history. Attila the Hun, for instance, is familiar to everybody as one of Rome's greatest enemies. The titles of the Roman dignitaries is certainly not 15th century.
It's stories like these that first gave me an interest in history when I was young.