By Christopher Zaldana
The author claims all copyrights to this story and no duplication or publication of this story is allowed, except by the web sites to which it has been posted, without the consent of the author.
This story is purely a work of fiction and any resemblance to person's living or dead, or to events that may have occurred, is purely coincidental. Moreover, none of the actions of the characters in this story is meant to condone, approve, or sanction their behavior.
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Once In A Lifetime
My Father's Glory
"Veni, vidi, nates calce concidi." ~ I came, I
saw, I kicked ass.
Set in a time when the mighty Roman Empire emerged to conquer the known world against powerful enemies. Under the rule of the Emperors, Rome was the center of the world and at it's height of power, the Empire was boundless.
At one time, the vast Roman Empire encompassed nearly all of the Mediterranean world. Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, the British Isles, the Netherlands, Germany and the Balkan states were all a conquered, by force and by skill-at-arms.
The breastplate that covered his heart bore the seal of his master, Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. He gladly would have slashed the heart of anyone who stood against Caesar, for Caesar was like a God to him. There was honour in being a Centurion, honour as well as virtue and these were highly regarded principles of the Republic.
He was a mighty Centurion, commander of one hundred brave soldiers, all trained to defend and die, for the Empire.
A fierce warrior, who knew how to wield a sword and be victorius in battle. He knew how to make his heart like a stone as he watched foreign soldiers die by his hand and under his command, this was his profession.
He belonged to the Royal Elite Centurions. Members, who were feared by it's enemies and thought of as invincible. In the twenty years, that he had been in the army, his combat ability, command expertise and tactical skills, had elevated him to greatness in the ranks of the Roman army.
The Romans had built a formidable military machine, based on well-equipped, strictly disciplined forces and commanded by some of the greatest military minds in the history of mankind. Titus Maximus Valerian, was the brain, body and force behind the Republic.
Titus Maximus, was a military genius, even when outnumbered ten to one, he still succeeded in combat. He was the first commander to have backup reserves and in war, he was able to change his plan of action quickly in case an enemy did something unexpected.
To the people, Titus Maximus was regarded as a hero, to his soldiers, he stood out as the one man in whom the Republic could place its trust and to his enemies, he was a merciless warrior. Sometimes vanquished in battle, always victorious in war.
I had never seen a day so dark, yet so early in the day. The sky looked angry, clouds were descending from the north and as I looked up at the sky, I felt something stirr deep within me. A cool breeze caressed my face and I felt the hairs on my arms and on the back of the neck just stand on end. As the fierce wind, swept away more clouds with a great force, I knew that there was change in the air.
A shiver of anticipation ran through my whole body and in the distance, I could hear the loud hammering of hoofs. My faithful servant Antius, was preparing my bed and as he heard the thunderous galloping of horses racing at great speed, he looked directly at me and slowly followed my gaze towards the window. As the clattering of hoofs got louder and louder, Antius bowed graciously and quickly left the room.
Antius, had been 5 years old, when he came into my ownership. His mother had been a slave from the Roman province of Transalpine Gallia. She must have been in her early twenties, when she caught the eye of the primus pilate (Regimental Sargent Major). She was a young, beautiful and curvaceous girl, with an appealing set of dark green eyes, lovely red lips and splendid long red hair. Lucius Cornelius Invictus, had been so lusftul after the young girl, that he simply purchased her from the local magistrate and made her his concubine.
That same evening, Lucius Cornelius called me into his tent and simply handed me the 5 year old son of his newly acquired slave. The little red headed boy was crying loudly and I could also hear the wailing and sobbing of a woman, coming from his bedchamber. The only reason I was given, was that Cornelius only wanted the mother for his personal needs and the little boy, was simply useless to him.
Cornelius, sat down on his chair and while looking at a map, took a sip of wine from his cup and gave me three options, as to what to do with the child.
"You can drown him, you can sell him and keep the money or if you like, you can keep him.", He didn't even blink an eye, as he gave me the options.
I had been his decurio (Corporal) at the time and when Lucius Cornelius gave me an order, I simply followed it without question. I had risen to the ranks very quickly and had proved my fighting abilities in the battle field. I had learned from the very best and in the short time, I had acquired a vast knowledge of warfare.
As Lucius Cornelius raised his head, I knew that he wanted a quick answer. I looked down at the little boy and a million thoughts ran through my head. I had killed an uncountable number of men throught the years but to kill a defenseless and young child was too cold hearted, even for me to do. To sell him at this young age, he might as well be better off dead, because who knew were he would end up. I looked directly into Lucius's eye and said.
"I'll keep, Sir. I will give him to my father, so that he can raise him with the other slaves in his household.", I took the child's hand and picked him up. Lucius looked pleased with my choice.
"Problem solved then. Consider him a gift and when he grows up, he'll be worth a good sum of money.", Cornelius simply grunted, dismissed me and walked away.
I stood there for a moment, with a little boy that looked scared and who was crying loudly for his mother. I tried to calm the child and extended my deepest gratitude towards Lucius. He drank from his cup and didn't even bother to look at either one of us.
"Ahh, thank-you, Sir. I appreciate your gener....", Lucius Cornelius, simply waved me to leave and walked into his bedchamber.
That had been 11 years ago and now young Antius was a healthy young man of 16. Antius, had grown quite healthy and had adjusted well, in my father's household. I would usually stop at my father's villa, when I was back from the wars and I would use this time to pay the boy a visit.
I was glad that he had grown up a happy child, as compared to the fate of many other children born into slavery. As my father, had once told me, servi aut nascuntur, aut fiunt(slaves are either born or made). Slavery was simply a fact of life, the vast majority of slaves, were obtained mainly through wars. Upon capturing a town, the women and childrens lives were spared and then they were sold into slavery.
Roman law, dictated that any infant born to a slave woman was in turn a slave. Many children end up working in workshops, such as; textile, pottery, other goods, working in the fields or the worst place of all, the mines.
Now that Antius had reached the age of 16, I noticed that he was growing at an incredible rate. His rosy cheeks had a healthy pink colour and his lips were bright red and would put any rose to shame. He had inherited, his mother very fair skin, freckles, bright red hair and the most alluring light green eyes, that I had ever seen. He was going to make a very handsome young man, one day.
There was a gentle but firm knock on my bedroom door.
"Come in.", It was young Antius. He looked a bit pale and nervous as he spoke.
"Master, there are 4 officers downstairs wanting to speak to you. They say it's urgent.", He waited for an answer and he kept looking behind him and listening at the raucous and harsh voices, that were coming from downstairs.
"It's always urgent. Tell the men, that I'll be down as soon as possible.", Antius gave a low bow, nodded and closed the door behind him.
I gave a big sigh and walked to the small statue of Jupiter. I kneeled and prayed, hoping that the King of the Gods, would heed my prayer.
"Jupiter Optimus Maximus, please let it be good news and not another war. It has been five years since my last battle and all I want, at this time is to rest in peace.", I bowed in front of the altar and headed out the door.
Downstairs, I could hear the very loud voices of men. Men, that I've come to rely on, trust and see as my brothers. Standing by the window and looking out into the sunset, was my optio (second-in-command), he had been personally picked by me.
Artemius Livius Drusus, was a respected man and a soldier to be reckoned with. A fierce warrior, strong and bold, he had stood by my side on every battle and was closer to me, than even my own blood brother. Artemius, was younger by two years but he had learned all the necessary skills, needed to become a great warrior.
He had a good head on his shoulder, was a quick thinker, had the strenght of a bull, the heart, confidence and determination of a lion, that was always applied in the heat of battle. He had excellent and flawless fighting techniques, an excellent problem solver and the most important quality, that I look in my men, he was trustworthy.
As Artemius, stood in front of the window, I wondered if he could also sense what the Fates, had in store for us.
As I looked out the window and at that dark sky, I could feel something in my bones, something was coming, something was near. My heart pounded as I thought of it, finally after five years, five long years of darkness and emptiness, I had awakened. During these past years, the only joy that I felt was the time I spent with my close friends and with their families.
I was tired of the whorehouses, the lovers, the baths. None of us were married and sure some of the men kept lovers and wives in other towns or cities, but marriage was something that I wasn't interested in. I didn't want to be tied down, I didn't want to answer to anyone but myself, I simply didn't want any complications or commitments, I was a free man and I wanted to stay that way.
If war was coming, I would welcome it. I would feel alive again, feel invigorated, freshened and inspired to live and to fight alongside my brothers. Now, I just feel tired and drained, with nothing to do, the heart and soul of a soldier grows old, weak and is slowly consumed.
For many seasons, I have been praying to Mars, the God of War for a sign and perhaps now, he has finally answered my prayers.
I was descending the stairs, when my three officers, took notice of me and gave me a warm, loud and distinctly salute.
Artemius, quickly turned from the window and had a very serious look on his face. He took a few steps and saluted.
"Hail Caesar. How are you, old friend?.", He gave me a warm smile and I returned the greeting.
"Hail Caesar. It's been a long time, my brother. What brings all of you to my home, if I didn't know already?.", Artemius, took another step forward and silently handed me the scroll.
The scroll, had the seals of the Tribunus Militum Laticlavius (Lt. Colonel) and of The Legate ( The General, of Senatorial Class). This was a serious scroll, being delivered by serious men, with what I'm sure were very serious information or orders.
My other three officers, all stood behind Artemius and kept looking at each other. They were curious and concerned, as to what the scroll had to say.
Blasius Claudius Vergilius, Caius Julius Cicero and Gaius Martius Hostilius, were good and trustworthy young men. Even though, these young men came from wealthy families, they had decided to go against their families wishes, joined and pursued a career in the military.
All three, were sons of local politicians and were highly regarded treasures to their families. A father, who was a politician, could bring his own son into the world of politics, once the youth had reached voting age and had some sort of military experience.
These young men, had even surprised me. I thought, they were going to be pampered little boys and avoid the gruesome battles by allowing their fathers to pull some strings but that was to be quite to the contrary. They became and graduated as Junior Centurions, and were the best of their class. In battle, they had shown their bravery, physical, moral and mental competence and the will to fight and win anywhere and at anytime. Their personal courage alone, could make any father proud.
They had served their time in the military and by now, if they wished, they had earned their right to have a seat in the Senate. However, against their father's and families wishes, all three decided to stay in the military and advance through the ranks and as far as I knew, none of these three young men, desired any plans in ever joining the Senate and following, in their father's footsteps.
I rolled the scroll, took a deep and silent breath and read the urgent orders.
I must have read the message, at least 10 times. It wasn't until I heard the deep voice of Artemius, say.
"Well?. What in Hade's does it actually say?.", Titus, had read the damm scroll for what seemed a lifetime. Whatever it was, it was big.
"I've been given a promotion. I am to report to Rome in three days time, where I'll be receiving the honour, of Primus Pilus (Senior Centurion).", I closed my eyes and knew that a war, was hanging over the horizon.
To be continued!