[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.
?¢‚Ç¨?ìFrom General Theodosios,?¢‚Ç¨¬ù he finally said. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìGenebaldus has launched a counterstrike against our advance forces in Bibracte.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Valentinianus?¢‚Ç¨‚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.
?¢‚Ç¨?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.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìAs you wish, my lord.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Tullius Naso saluted sharply. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìAnd if this does not persuade them??¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìBring them anyway.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
He glared at Didius. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìAnd instruct Rufius Longa to start erecting crosses along the road south of town.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìAs you may have surmised, our situation is more difficult than we had imagined. Bibracte is under siege. We must have new recruits.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
The silence was nearly stifling.
?¢‚Ç¨?ìThere are many Lugdunenses who will comply with your demands, my lords. I expect few of my people will be among them.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìRome cannot afford to give your people special privileges, Didius Paullus. We are at war?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùor does that mean nothing to you? Do you honestly think you would fare better under the barbarians? They?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll skin you alive or throw you on a bonfire to their gods before they put up with such nonsense.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìAnd you will nail us to crosses.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
For only the second time, the elder Augustus let his frustration show. Biting his lip, he leaned toward Didius. ?¢‚Ç¨?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?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve been spinning, you had better get to it.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù