Princes of the Universe, Part I

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Stories & Tales' started by Sisiutil, Oct 17, 2006.

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  1. Ravellion

    Ravellion Prince

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    I am not too sure he is dead. He could have merely slipped into unconsciousness. We'll have to wait and see!

    But not for too long, I hope :)
     
  2. wenamon

    wenamon Warlord

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    great great update here sisutil. This foray of a side story is definately turning out to be a worthy endeavour!
     
  3. AFC69

    AFC69 Chieftain

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    Long time browser of the forums (many, many thanks to all the great posters over the years, too numerous to mention) but I only just registered to acknowledge what a truly fantastic story this has become. (I'm printing and keeping a copy of this novella as it's that good). I know you've already mentioned Helmling as your inspiration, but the more I read it, the more I feel you've taken the best of Eddings and Turtledove and made it into something unique. Keep up the great work!
     
  4. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    great chapter! i'll bet our charming hero of the hour aint dead by a long shot...
     
  5. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Thank you for the compliment!

    It's interesting that you mention those authors, since I know of their work but haven't read them. My main inspiration for writing about Rome is Colleen McCullough, with Robert Graves a close 2nd. Though I know I'm not including nearly as much political intrigue as they do--that would make this story even longer!

    As for the fate of Lucius Rutullus... stay tuned. ;) :D
     
  6. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Oh, I forgot to mention--brownie points to whoever identifies the commander of Madrid's garrison!
     
  7. carl corey

    carl corey Deity

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    The great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Cameron Diaz?
     
  8. tral

    tral Chieftain

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    Could it be El Cid?
     
  9. ConanKND

    ConanKND Warlord

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    Lurker's Comment : Yeah, it's El Cid. I'm quite sure, stumbled by a historical comic book series. He's Rodrigo Diaz all right.

    BTW, awesome story! I like it that you narrate the story by using diffrent people as a key character as time passes. Sossatrus, Lucius, and more to come. Good job!
     
  10. Izipo

    Izipo Hardcore casual gamer

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    Thank you Sisiutil,
    I registered mainly to say this. Your work is fantastic. Keep it up (and keep it coming).
    Thank you again for a great story.
    :goodjob:
     
  11. AFC69

    AFC69 Chieftain

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    I have to say that you're well on your way..........I've coughed up quite a large amount of money over the years for books (fiction and non-fiction) that couldn't hold a candle to this tale...... Robert Jordan himself should be looking over his shoulder ;)
     
  12. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    :lol:

    There's this thing called Google? You should try it sometime. All the kids say it's pretty cool. ;)
    The brownie points go to tral! Congratulations! :D
    You should watch the movie starring Charlton Heston and the stunningly gorgeous Sophia Loren. :drool: It's one of Martin Scorcese's favourite movies; as I recall, he undertook an effort to restore it a while ago.

    It's fun throwing in an actual historical character now and then--besides the leaders, I mean--especially if they suit the role in the story, no matter how minor. I mean, who else would be commanding Madrid's garrison but El Cid? I've got another historical personage coming up later in this tale.

    Thanks again to everyone for the compliments! I'll try to post the next installment tonight or tomorrow.
     
  13. carl corey

    carl corey Deity

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    Eh, what do they know anyway?! ;) And Googling something doesn't usually get me any points. It's more fun if someone actually knows the stuff. Plus, I liked my version better and nobody said it isn't in fact also true... :D
     
  14. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 7 – Corona

    He opened his eyes. A form loomed before him—a face. A familiar face, he noted as it slowly came into focus. A high forehead. Fair thinning hair combed forward. A handsome nose, a well-formed mouth. And the eyes—the eyes! Unforgettable. Ice-blue irises rimmed with black, intelligent and piercing. A face a little past its prime, but it must have made women swoon in its youth. But then again, had he ever been a youth? Could he even remember back that far?

    “Caesar…” he said weakly.

    “Ave, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” the leader of Rome said.

    “I’m… sorry,” Lucius said.

    Caesar frowned. “Sorry? Whatever for?”

    Lucius, in turn, frowned back, his dark heavy brows creasing. Didn’t Caesar know he was dead? He had to know. Unless…

    “I’m… alive?” Lucius said, his voice no more than a rasp. He licked his lips, which he suddenly realized were very dry.

    “Barely,” Caesar told him. “You lost a lot of blood, my young friend. And gave us all a considerable fright,” he added, his voice in an admonishing tone, but his lips curling into a pleased—and relieved—smile.

    Caesar glanced over his shoulder expectantly, and an instant later a nurse appeared with a cup of water, from which Lucius drank gratefully. The other senior legates were there in the tent as well, Lucius now noticed, much to his astonishment. Including Quintus Lutatius Catullus Senior. Claudia’s father-in-law, Lucius noted with a pang that registered on his face, which thankfully passed for something caused by his wounds.

    “How long have I been…?” he asked, leaning back into his bed.

    “Two days,” Caesar told him.

    “That long?”

    “Yes,” Caesar said. “Long enough for us to take a city almost empty of defenders. Tlatelolco is ours,” he said, smiling triumphantly.



    “Damn,” Lucius muttered. “Couldn’t you have waited for me?” he asked quietly, still weak.

    Caesar threw his head back and laughed. “You’re going to be off your feet for a while, my young friend! Don’t worry, there will be several more battles to fight, since you’re still so eager for them. Now I know you need your rest, but if you have the strength, some of your comrades would like to see you.”

    Lucius smiled weakly. “By all means, show them in,” he said in his strained voice.

    Caesar rose and nodded to an attendant standing by the flap of the tent, and a moment later, five of the centurions of the Fourteenth Legion entered, looking very solemn. Most of them were a few years older than Lucius, but they regarded him with no small amount of reverence, even awe.



    “Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” the centurion Gnaeus Decumius said, then coughed, obviously a little uncomfortable with speech-making, “the Fourteenth Legion of Rome wishes to offer you a token of its gratitude and thanks. If not for your actions outside of Tlatelolco two days ago, taking firm command when your superiors had fallen, an entire Legion would have been lost. Perhaps even the entire army, had the Aztec horsemen in their vast numbers succeeded in destroying our best catapults and cutting off the main force from its path of retreat and reinforcement. But they did not, and the Fourteenth escaped with minimal casualties—thanks to you. Therefore, we offer you this.”

    He turned to one of the other Centurions, and was handed a small circlet of long, coarse strands of grass that were curled and twisted together to form a corona—a crown. At the sight of it, Lucius’ tired eyes opened wide, and he gasped. His lips and throat felt very dry once again.

    Like all armies the world over, the Roman legions had several decorations awarded for valour in battle. Many were formed of precious metal—bronze, silver, even gold. Ironically, however, Rome’s highest military honour was made from the humblest of materials: grasses torn from the field of battle where one man, through his bravery and decisive action, had saved an entire legion, or even an entire army, from certain defeat and death. This was the corona graminea—the grass crown, awarded only a handful of times in the thousands of years of Rome’s history. And it was the only award given by the legionaries themselves, not by their commanders, making it all the more precious and revered.

    “No…” Lucius Rutullus whispered, disbelieving, in shock at the sight of the corona. The grass crown? Awarded to a mere ranker after his first battle? He could hardly believe it. But he couldn’t take his eyes off it, and in his amazement he forced himself into a sitting position.

    Gnaeus Decumius took this as a signal and stepped forward, then gently and reverently placed the grass crown upon the dark, short curls atop Lucius’ head. He then stepped back, his eyes shining and a smile upon his face.

    “I… I don’t know what to say,” Lucius muttered a moment later. The crown felt so light upon his hair, yet it made the head beneath it swim.

    “Say you’ll be rejoining us soon,” Gnaeus Decumius said. “The Fourteenth needs a primus pilus, doesn’t it, Caesar?” He said, turning to the Commander-in-Chief.

    “Primus pilus?” Lucius asked, and watched in astonishment as Caesar smiled and nodded. Promoted to first spear as well? It was too much. He felt dizzy, and eased himself back down onto the bed.

    At a signal from Caesar, a nurse gently took the grass crown from Lucius’ head and carefully set it aside upon a table. The Commander-in-Chief then signalled to the centurions of the Fourteenth Legion, who obediently filed out of the tent, though not without a smile and a nod towards their esteemed, bed-ridden comrade.

    Before he succumbed to much-needed sleep again, something was nagging at him. “Cinna?” he asked, glancing at Caesar.

    The leader of Rome snorted derisively. “I’m amazed you’d concern yourself
    with the fate of that sorry excuse for a nobleman,” Caesar said. “I told him to go back to Rome in disgrace. After he’d cleaned himself up. Don’t concern yourself with him any more, my lad. I’ll find a new commander for your Legion—a worthy one, I promise you! Now get your rest,” he said, just as Lucius’ fluttering eyelids closed.

    “Speaking of who’s to lead the Fourteenth,” Catulus Senior said to Caesar once they’d left the medical tent, “might I offer a suggestion?”

     
  15. feldmarshall

    feldmarshall Dictator

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    claudia's husband?
     
  16. biggamer132

    biggamer132 King

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    That was exactly the first thought that came into my head too.
     
  17. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    i should think that it would be.... the irony of it all... serving under the man who married his claudia...
     
  18. Joxer

    Joxer Warlord

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    Kudos!

    Great read.
     
  19. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 8 – Comrades in Arms



    It was over two weeks before Lucius was able to return to his duties. Caesar had given him a mahogany box to contain and preserve his grass crown, engraved with a depiction of the rearguard action in the Battle of Tlatelolco. As exquisite as it was, however, it didn’t compare as a prize to what lay within it it. Lucius found himself sneaking peeks at the grass crown every now and then, unable to believe it was truly there. The corona graminea usually went to generals, not rankers, and infrequently at that. But this one was his.

    He walked back into the barracks that first day, the box under one arm, and stopped short when all his bunkmates rose and erupted into applause. His obvious embarrassment and humility, evident in the blush that rose to his cheeks, the abashed grin he wore, and the raised hand and shaking of his head as he silently pleaded for them to stop, only urged them on, making them applaud louder, cheer more vociferously. Men approached him to slap him on the back or ruffle his dark curls.

    Gnaeus Decumius approached him, smiling broadly. “Welcome back, primus pilus,” he said.

    “That’s going to take some getting used to,” Lucius remarked.

    “Nonsense!” Decumius said, smiling. “I heard you call us all a lot of cunni before Tlatelolco that day. You’re a natural!” The two soldiers laughed; they had faced death together and had survived, and as a result found themselves sharing a comradeship that belied the short time they’d known one another. “There’s someone you need to meet,” Decumius suddenly said, and led Lucius over to another man.

    The man turned and smiled, and Lucius noticed that though he looked a few years older than himself, he seemed to act a little younger—a little less sure of himself, perhaps, though it was a subtle distinction. He was handsome in an ordinary sort of way: chestnut coloured hair, wide-set brown eyes, a straight nose, a pleasant smile. His handshake was firm, his delight in meeting Lucius evidently genuine. He was just a couple of inches shorter than Lucius, meaning he had to look up slightly to greet him.

    “So you’re Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, the hero of Tlatelolco! It’s an honour to meet you!” he said earnestly, shaking Lucius’ hand with enthusiasm. “Tlatelolco…” the man repeated. “Did I pronounce it right?” he asked with an abashed grin.

    “Close enough,” Lucius said, smiling and finding himself warming to the man. He just seemed… likeable. He noticed that he wore the mark of a junior legate.

    “Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” Gnaeus Decumius said by way of formal introduction, “may I present the Fourteenth Legion’s new commander, Quintus Lutatius Catullus.”

    “Junior,” Catullus hastened to add. “And I hope to prove better at the position than my predecessor.”

    “Trust me, Quintus Lutatius,” Decumius said with a roll of his eyes and smile, “that will be the easiest part of this job!”

    The two men laughed, and Lucius joined in, but his laughter sounded hollow in his own ears. He felt as though he’d been kicked in the gut. Because standing before him, proving so obviously affable to the other soldiers, was Claudia’s husband. Now, evidently, his commanding officer.

    For the first time since the battle before Tlatelolco, Lucius found himself wishing he’d died there.

    ***

    He wanted to hate him. He tried very hard to hate him. He had every right to feel that way. The man had stolen the love of his life away. Catullus himself raised the subject, in the most delicate way, soon after they’d met. Obviously Catullus had been waiting for a moment when he was alone with his primus pilus to talk to him, man-to-man.

    “I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Catullus said to him as they walked back to their billets from the exercise field the day after they’d first met. “I understand that you know my wife… Claudia Pulchra Primia.”

    “We… attended school together,” Lucius said, tactfully, he thought.

    “Yes, so I’ve heard,” Catullus said, then paused, chewing on his bottom lip as he considered how to go about bringing up what has obviously an uncomfortable topic. “It’s just that, you know, a man hears things, and he begins to doubt, well, not his wife, necessarily… maybe he doubts himself. Do you understand?” he said, his eyes regarding Lucius with a pleading look in them.

    Oh, he was so painfully sincere! It made him hard to hate him, despite Lucius’ best efforts to do so. Lucius had stopped walking, though, and had turned to level a hardened stare at his commanding officer.

    “Claudia Pulchra,” he said, proud that he managed to keep a tremor of emotion out of his voice when he spoke her name, “is the finest example of Roman womanhood I have ever had the honour of encountering, with the possible exception of my own beloved mother. I know for a fact and assure you that she has never done and never will do anything to shame herself, her family, or her husband.”

    Catullus seemed to mull this over and nodded slowly. “Thank you, Lucius Rutullus,” he said. “It means a great deal for a man to hear that about his wife—especially when they’re separated by duty and distance.”

    Lucius found himself changing from trying to hate the man to trying not to like him. Even in that, he found himself thwarted by a surprising letter he received soon after meeting Catullus, from Claudia herself. She’d written it in a code that they had devised as children and only they could understand, a mix of the Aztec, Japanese, and Chinese he had learned in the Subura and had taught to her, the words spelled out phonetically in Latin letters, though, rather than their native alphabets. It was a sign that her words were intensely private and meant for him alone.
    My dearest Lucius,

    I trust this letter finds you well. I have never stopped thinking about you and worrying about you. I was so proud to hear that you’d won the grass crown, though I was not at all surprised. But I was so stricken when I also heard that you’d been wounded in the process. You must write back soon and tell me your condition—I won’t be able to sleep properly until I know that you’re all right.

    By now no doubt you’ve met Quintus Lutatius. You can imagine my shock when I heard he’d been assigned to your Legion. I suspect it was a shock for you as well, and not a welcome one. I can’t imagine how you feel about it. This may sound strange, Lucius, but I beg you to consider becoming his friend. He’s a good man. I am fond of him—I like him, and I think you will too. He treats me well, Lucius, with respect and devotion. I hope that, at least, is some consolation to you. ​

    But the only consolation Lucius could take from those lines was that Claudia had not said that she loved Catullus. It wasn’t much, but it was all he had. He read on:
    If you cannot befriend him, I understand. But do this for me at least: watch out for him. He’s not half the soldier you are. Don’t ask me how I, a proper Roman girl so unacquainted with martial matters, should know this, but I assure you I do! Maybe it was all those afternoons my girlfriends and I spent watching you boys performing your drills on the Campus Martius; perhaps I managed to notice something besides how good you look in a cuirass and greaves.

    Of course, if Quintus Lutatius is half the soldier you are, I should imagine he’ll do well indeed, but I will sleep better at night knowing you’re doing what you can to keep my husband safe. As I said, he’s a good man, and Rome needs good men like him. And like you too, of course.

    At this point I suppose I should play the tragic, star-crossed heroine and include some declaration of my undying affection and heartfelt devotion, something that would make our beloved Seneca green with envy. But I think we’re both getting too old for that, and even if we’re not, I think it would just be painful for us both. All I can do is assure that I remain, as always,

    Eternally yours,

    Claudia Pulchra Primia ​

    Lucius put the letter down to find his cheeks wet with tears. He silently chided himself. Claudia belonged to another man now; he had to learn to accept it., though he knew part of himself never would.

    Her complimentary description of her husband was of no comfort to him. Oh, how he wanted to hear that Catullus was an ogre, that he was an abusive philanderer! But on consideration, he realized that he was glad he was not, as it only would have caused Claudia pain, and that was a thought he couldn’t bear.

    But befriend the man? Did she have any idea how much she was asking of him? Despite Catullus’ affability, just being in his presence made Lucius feel like a hot poker had been stabbed into his gut. He managed to present a façade of even-tempered professionalism to Catullus, and that was the best he could do. Becoming his friend was out of the question. But the fact that he could not grant Claudia this simple request gnawed at him, and he delayed replying to the letter.

    That Catullus lived up to his wife’s complimentary description was sore comfort at best. Shortly after Claudia’s letter arrived, some of the legionaries decided to partake of the delights on offer at a local brothel. They tried to goad Catullus into joining them, but he turned them down.

    “I appreciate the invitation, lads,” he said, “but if any of you had ever met my wife, you’d understand why I’ll never go within a mile of a brothel!”

    “She’s that bad, is she?” Gnaeus Decumius teased him.

    “No,” Catullus said, a dreamy expression clouding his features, “she’s that beautiful.”

    Lucius heard a strange sound after Catullus uttered those words. He realized it was his own teeth gnashing together. He silently struggled to gain control of his turbulent emotions.

    “Well, at least you’ll have company,” Decumius said with a shrug. “Lucius Rutullus never joins us on our little excursions either. You two Vestals keep each other company now, you hear!” the Centurion barked, then marched out the door of the barracks, laughing.

    “You have a girl at home too?” Catullus asked Lucius once they were alone in the barracks.

    “Yes,” Lucius answered truthfully, though of course he didn’t mention that it was the same girl. He found himself yielding to a perverse desire to tear the old wound open and pour salt in it. “Any children yet?” he asked.

    “Sadly, no,” Catullus answered. “Though we were trying like mad before I left!” Catullus remarked, laughing. Lucius had to suppress a wince at that.

    “Will you divorce her if she proves barren?” Lucius asked in an emotionless tone. Oh, the stage lost a great actor when I gave it up! he thought morosely, hating himself just a little.

    “Absolutely not,” Catullus said firmly. “She’s a prize beyond price. And I… I adore her, Lucius.” After a brief pause, he shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t really hold her at fault in any case. Please don’t repeat this to anyone, but It’s a dirty little family secret among the Catulli that our men seem to have trouble getting our women pregnant. I’m an only child, and not for lack of trying, my father tells me. If necessary, we’ll adopt.”

    In response to which Lucius only nodded, one of his few remaining hopes dashed.

    However, one hope kindled within him, though it was perhaps too malignant to go by that name. He tried to suppress it, to deny it, but like a malevolent spirit it goaded him, whispered to him when everything else was quiet. Men die in a war, the malicious voice in his head reminded him. You don’t have to do a blessed thing. Let the Aztecs take care of everything… And Lucius would toss on his bunk and try to shut out the spiteful voice inside himself.

    Within a few weeks, Catullus got a chance to experience his first battle. The Roman army advanced upon the Aztec citadel of Teotihuacan. The city was surrounded by hills and nestled into a valley made fragrant by the aroma of the spice plantation wafting in over Lake Atlaua. Despite the pastoral setting, the city had girded itself for war; Teotihuacan sported high, formidable walls. Caesar stood before them and eyed them appraisingly.



    “Catapults,” he said simply. He then went back to his command tent, there to write a dispatch to the Senate describing the taking of the city before it had even occurred, so confident was he in his troops, their equipment, and their tactics.

    Vini, vidi, vici, he began the letter. I came, I saw, I conquered. He reflected that it could probably be his motto.

    As Caesar wrote his dispatch, the catapults began their work, the heavy rocks they hurled slowly creating a breach in the city walls. The catapults were then dragged closer to the city, the better to cause damage to the enemy forces within, though this put the slow-moving units in considerable danger of counter-attack.

    Once the artillery crews’ work had been deemed accomplished, it was the turn of the legionaries. The Fourteenth was given the dangerous honour of being the “forlorn hope”, the first through the breach. But the catapults had done their work well, and the Fourteenth was in high spirits after proving themselves before Tlatelolco; they poured through the gaping wound in the city’s defences led by their new commander and their already-distinguished primus pilus. Catullus acquitted himself well, ensuring the men formed up in an orderly fashion as soon as they were through the breach, the better to withstand the counter-attack by the city’s defenders; and he led by example, fighting amongst them in the front lines, urging them on through his shouted commands and his valiant actions.

    The fighting was fierce; though outmatched, the Aztecs were fighting for their homeland. Wave after wave of Aztec archers flung themselves angrily at the Fourteenth Legion’s front rank; wave after wave of Aztec archers died.

    Then it happened.

    The law of averages dictated that at least one of the Romans’ opponents would meet with some success. One Aztec spearman somehow managed to force his way through a gap in the shields; he suddenly appeared at Catullus’ left, his vulnerable side since the man was suddenly behind his shield rather than before it. Lucius was barely two paces away. He watched the Aztec slip in next to Catullus, then he saw the flash of the raised spear and Catullus struggling to find some way to bring his shield around to defend himself.



    Afterwards, Lucius would reflect that he hadn’t even thought about it. There was, after all, no time to think during a battle. A soldier doesn’t think, he acts, for the speed of thought is too slow. Lucius acted. After one quick, long stride he was at his commanding officer’s side. He thrust his own shield forward to deflect the spear. As he raised his shield to send the spear harmlessly overhead, he thrust his gladius into the spearman's abdomen, just below the lower edge of his armour. The gutted Aztec stared at him, wide-eyed, for less time than it took Lucius to blink. Then Lucius lowered his shield and slammed it into the man, knocking him down to die on the blood-soaked cobblestones.

    Shortly after that, the first and most able city garrison was defeated. Other Roman troops stormed through the breach, and the Fourteenth was able to take a much-deserved breather. Catullus and Lucius found themselves leaning against a wall beside one another, breathing hard and sweating profusely.

    “You saved my life back there,” Catullus said, then gulped down another breath.

    Lucius stared at him for a moment, then shrugged. “We’re soldiers,” he said in between pants of breath. “It’s what we do for one another.”

    Catullus nodded, then smiled broadly and gratefully slapped Lucius on the shoulder.



    Why had he done it? The thought plagued Lucius immediately after the battle. Soon, however, he realized that there was nothing else he could have done. Whatever personal issues might lay between them, Lucius and Catullus were fellow Romans, both patricians at that, and fellow legionaries as well. There was absolutely no possibility that Lucius would allow a fellow soldier—let alone his commanding officer—to be killed by the enemy, not while he had life and breath in himself to do something to prevent it.

    Beyond that, Lucius knew, was Claudia herself, and her request. Whatever her feelings for her husband were, it was evident that his death would cause her pain. And that was something Lucius could never allow.

    So later that night, he finally found the wherewithal to answer Claudia’s letter.

    My dearest Claudia,

    Thank you for your recent letter. I assure you that I am well. My wounds in and of themselves were not grievous; it was their number that laid me low for a time. But I am fully recovered and hope that news allows you to sleep better. While your concern for my well-being touches my heart, I cannot bear to think that I am the source of any upset on your part.

    To say that I was shocked to find your husband in command of my Legion would be an understatement. My feelings for you have not changed and never will. However, they are my feelings and therefore my problem and I will deal with them as best I can. Furthermore, they have no place on a battlefield.

    Your high regard for your husband is not misplaced. In the short time that I’ve known him I’ve witnessed his honesty, his integrity, and his virtue. I find myself liking him, and yes, I must confess that this surprises me. I must also tell you that you underestimate his ability as a soldier. He leads the men well and they respect him for it. As do I.

    But I understand your concern, and I have never been able to deny you anything, as you well know. Let me take this opportunity, then, to pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to keep your husband from harm. I make this promise this for your sake, of course, but also for his. As I said, I find myself liking him, and he has the makings of an able commander. Besides, if he enjoys your good opinion, he must be a very good man indeed, and I am beginning to see evidence of that.

    I will accede to your wisdom regarding statements of devotion, and therefore end this letter simply assuring you that I am now and always shall be,

    Eternally yours,

    Lucius Rutullus Lepidus

    “Writing a letter to that girl of yours?” Catullus asked him when he saw Lucius handing the letter off to their century’s clerk for delivery to Rome.

    “No,” Lucius said evenly. “Just a note to an old friend.” If the statement caused him any pain, he did not show it.

    Catullus nodded. “Listen,” he said, “I know you and I don’t frequent the brothels like a lot of the men do, but I’m not above getting a drink. You?”

    Lucius smiled. “Definitely! It’s thirsty work, this soldiering.”

    “Good!” Catullus said with a smile and a nod. “I can tell you don’t want a fuss made over it, but you did save my life today, and I think buying you a drink is the least I can do to show my appreciation.”

    Lucius’ grin broadened. No, he was nowhere near reclaiming his family’s lost position, grass crown or no. Worse still, he had lost the hand of the only girl he’d ever loved. Despite Mencius’ reassurances to the contrary, he might never find his place in the world. But he was a soldier in the best damn army in the whole stinking world and they’d just won yet another battle and he was alive to revel in it. And his commanding officer wanted to buy him a drink. It wasn’t everything he wanted from life—not even close—but it would have to do. For now, at least.

    “That’s my favourite way to drink,” he said.

    “How’s that?” Catullus asked.

    “When someone else is buying.”

    The two soldiers laughed, and Lucius marched off to find a drink with his new and wholly unexpected friend.
     
  20. feldmarshall

    feldmarshall Dictator

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2007
    Messages:
    387
    thanks for the nice story sisiutil!
     
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