Dr. Platypus

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Excerpt 2

[Because I’m convinced I can write lousy fiction as well as the next guy…]?Ǭ†

I was an optio in the Fourth Italic Legion. I was part of a detached subunit sent north to strengthen the Third Alpine Iulia Legion not long after the civil war broke out. As I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sure you know, my lords, emperor Crispus was succeeded in the west by his son-in-law, Vettius Iustus. But Iulianus, who was already Augustus in the east, aspired to sole rule of the empire. So, capitalizing on Vettius Iustus?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ (shall we say) uninspiring reputation, he seized the opportunity by moving his forces west.

The Third Legion?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s advance troops engaged Iulianus?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ forces at the Arnus River?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùnot far, I take it, from where you recently turned back the Franks. The First Illyrian and the Fifth Iovia Legions were in the vanguard, reinforced with Gothic mercenaries: heavy cavalry of the type that is more or less common these days. Forty years ago the western legions had nothing like them.

The Fifth plowed through our forward units from the Sixth Spanish Legion in no time. Then they pressed further south until engaging our main force at Biturgia. I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t need to tell you the details of that engagement. Suffice it to say, the Goths routed my cohort and dogged us halfway to Arretium.

That was when I fell injured with a Goth spear through my right shoulder. I know nothing else of that day or several thereafter.

I awoke in a farmhouse, somewhere. There was a girl applying a dressing to my shoulder. She may as well have been pouring boiling oil over it. It took me a few moments to realize I was still alive?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùa fact that surprised me greatly at the time!

I tried to sit up, but I passed out. Later I learned that I had drifted in and out of consciousness for six days. All I remember of that time was that one instance when the daughter of the man who found me was tending to my wound.

* * *

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThis is a fine story, old man, but what does it have to do with us??¢‚Ǩ¬ù Valentinianus shifted in his chair, agitated. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìYou?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re wasting our time when you should be sending your young men to our recruiters!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìLet him be, Valentinianus.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù The elder Augustus raised his hand as if to calm his counterpart with a gesture. It seemed to work?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùfor now. Sabinianus leaned forward, sizing up Didius, looking for any detail about him that might help his cause.

Didius understood completely. Unlike Valentinianus, the emperor of the east had not risen to his esteemed position by virtue of his birth but because of his wits. He was nothing if not a natural leader.

I must tread carefully here, Didius thought.



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