Eagles at War

Eagles at War by Ben Kane

Book: Eagles at War by Ben Kane Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ben Kane
Tags: Fiction, Historical
return to Rome.’
    ‘How times have changed,’ commented Caedicius in an undertone, winking at Tullus and Marcianus.
    Marcianus hid his mirth, but not well. Tullus was also amused, but he kept a neutral face before Tubero. He had no reason to think that the tribune was a spy sent by Rome, but when it came to the imperial family, it paid to watch one’s mouth. He wasn’t going to be the one who mentioned Augustus’ previous dislike of his adopted son Tiberius. In a memorable damning of his now heir, the emperor had once been heard to say, ‘Alas for the Roman people, to be ground by jaws that crunch so slowly.’ For his part, Tullus liked Tiberius. Although not the type he’d want to go drinking with, Tiberius was solid and reliable and, most important of all, a general who cared for his soldiers. ‘It’s excellent that Augustus is recognising him in that manner,’ said Tullus. ‘He is a most able commander.’ Tullus saw Tubero’s blank stare, and added, ‘Four years ago, not long after he’d been adopted by Augustus, he served as governor of Germania, and led our legions over the Rhenus for two campaigning seasons.’
    Tubero looked embarrassed. ‘Of course, of course, I remember.’
    ‘We marched as far as the River Albis, and overwintered in Germania,’ Tullus explained. ‘The year after that we would have crushed Maroboduus, but the Pannonian revolt put paid to that plan.’
    ‘Tiberius assembled ten legions, didn’t he?’ asked Tubero, his eyes glinting.
    ‘He did, sir. Four of them from this province. It was a grand sight,’ said Tullus, glancing at Caedicius. ‘Remember, sir?’
    ‘It stirred the blood, aye,’ growled Caedicius. ‘A damn shame that the campaign never happened. It was only five days until it began too!’
    ‘What does Varus plan for the summer?’ Tubero enquired of Caedicius. ‘Will we go as far as the River Albis, do you think?’
    ‘I don’t think so. Porta Westfalica is where you’ll make camp. Tullus?’
    ‘That’s what I’ve heard, yes, sir.’
    ‘Are the tribes in that area restless?’ Tubero’s eyes swung from Caedicius to Tullus, Marcianus and back again. ‘Is there any chance of fighting?’
    Caedicius laughed. ‘Quite the lion cub, aren’t you?’
    ‘This is what I’ve been hearing since we left camp, sir. He’s keen for action,’ said Tullus, adding for the sake of diplomacy, ‘which is a good sign in a new officer.’
    ‘It is,’ Caedicius concurred. Tubero looked pleased until he added, ‘You might be disappointed, however, tribune. As far as I’m aware, the tribes between here and the River Visurgis seem content. The army’s main duty will be to collect taxes, while Varus holds court sessions and settles petty disputes.’
    Aided by the wine perhaps, Tubero’s restraint fell away. ‘I didn’t come to Germania to listen to court cases!’
    Cheeky bastard, thought Tullus.
    ‘With respect, senior tribune, you’ll do as you’re ordered,’ barked Caedicius, all primus pilus once more. ‘Whatever the duty may be.’
    ‘Of course,’ said Tubero, flushing. ‘My apologies.’
    Caedicius’ fierce expression eased. ‘If I’ve learned one thing in the army, Tubero, it’s to expect the unexpected. You must always be prepared to fight, even if it looks unlikely. That way, when it happens – and it will happen to you sometime – you’ll be ready.’
    ‘I’ll remember that. Thank you for your advice,’ said a chastened Tubero.
    Caedicius saluted him with his cup. ‘Old I may be, but I know a thing or two about war. As do we all, eh, Tullus? Marcianus?’
    ‘We’d be poor soldiers if we didn’t, sir,’ said Tullus with a smile.
    Marcianus chuckled before saying, ‘I’ve been meaning to tell you, sir. The tribune might find this interesting too. One of my officers mentioned a trader who passed the camp today. The man was talking about some trouble caused by the Tencteri.’
    Tullus’ ears pricked up. Tencteri territory lay

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