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Excerpt 5

[One more excerpt from the short story I've been playing around with.]

Didius paused and took in a long, deep breath. Outside, the sun was beginning to descend toward the horizon. In the imperial tent, Valentinianus was leaning forward in his chair. The elder Augustus motioned for a courier to approach. Only then did Didius notice the runner who had entered the tent from the back.

He saluted both Augusti, then presented a scroll to Ioannes Sabinianus. He unrolled the missive and studied it for several seconds before speaking.

?¢‚Ǩ?ìFrom General Theodosios,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù he finally said. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìGenebaldus has launched a counterstrike against our advance forces in Bibracte.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

Valentinianus?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ eyes could barely contain their fear and rage. Sabinianus glanced in his direction but said nothing.

He dismissed the courier, then summoned the guard standing watch at his side.

?¢‚Ǩ?ìTullius Naso, take two contubernia of soldiers into the village. Round up any men you find of fighting age and bring them to camp. Deliver them to basic training. I want them marching in good formation by noon tomorrow. If any of them refuse, tell them they can take up the matter here with Didius Paullus.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìAs you wish, my lord.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Tullius Naso saluted sharply. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìAnd if this does not persuade them??¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìBring them anyway.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

He glared at Didius. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìAnd instruct Rufius Longa to start erecting crosses along the road south of town.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìAs you may have surmised, our situation is more difficult than we had imagined. Bibracte is under siege. We must have new recruits.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

The silence was nearly stifling.

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThere are many Lugdunenses who will comply with your demands, my lords. I expect few of my people will be among them.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìRome cannot afford to give your people special privileges, Didius Paullus. We are at war?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùor does that mean nothing to you? Do you honestly think you would fare better under the barbarians? They?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll skin you alive or throw you on a bonfire to their gods before they put up with such nonsense.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìAnd you will nail us to crosses.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

For only the second time, the elder Augustus let his frustration show. Biting his lip, he leaned toward Didius. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI told you before, I expect you to enforce this law of yours that permits your men to fight. I see no other options, so if there is in fact a point to this tale you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve been spinning, you had better get to it.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

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