Standard Bearer

Chapter 22

Outside the tent a bulbous moon and a treasure trove of stars lit up the night sky, majestically and coldly imperious towards the squalid world beneath.

Inside braziers flanked the General. Servants continued to bring in all manner of dishes for the "light supper." He would definitely need Roscius by his side should his next mission be to clear the table of food, the centurion thought to himself.

"Marius once said me that, rather than a great centurion, give me a lucky one. It seems that you may be both Oppius," Caesar exclaimed, popping another salted olive in his mouth and washing it down with diluted wine. "Firstly, how is Teucer?"

"He'll live. I am sorry again that I could not keep the agent alive. We learned nothing."

"There's no need to apologise. We also learned more than you might think too. The manner of his death and his zealous devotion to stoicism has given me food for thought as to the identity of his employer. We also confirmed the existence of a conspiracy??-??and doused the flames of the treachery. It will be some time before news of his death will reach his master back in Rome. Recruitment will dry up during that time. Similarly it will take a while for someone to take the place of the agent. During that respite I will look to defeat our enemies across the channel??-??be they Gauls, Britons or Romans."

"So are we returning to Gaul?"

"Not all of us, all at once. But you will be returning with me. You've proved yourself to be of far too much use. You've become a victim of your own success. Although I have promoted you to centurion Lucius, you're still my standard bearer. But rather than a silver eagle, I want you with a sword in your hand??-??bloodied with the enemies of Rome and Caesar. There is a storm on the horizon. Gaul has only been half-tamed, civilised. There are still weeds in our garden there to pull up. The business of Britain and Rome can wait."

Oppius observed the good-humoured glint in his commander's eye go out again, clouded over with a furrowed brow and expression of icy determination.

Later that evening, after the centurion had been dismissed, Joseph looked in on his master. The braziers were still glowing, but barely. Caesar was finishing off some correspondence, a letter to Brutus. Caesar's relationship with his mother had been long and intense. He looked upon Brutus as being like a son. He had encouraged him in his studies, taught him soldiering. As he wrote to Brutus though Caesar could not help but sneer as he thought about the other father-figure in his life, his uncle??-??Cato.

"Would you like anything before I go to bed?"

"No thank you Joseph. Get some rest. Try to get some for me too," Caesar replied, wearily.

As he stood by his master the old servant couldn't fail to notice how the map of Britain on the table had been replaced by one of Gaul. He squinted in the half-light, attempting to read the name of the town Caesar had recently circled.


End Note.

Since the release of Augustus: Son of Rome I have received a number of letters asking about when the follow-up will be published. The reply has been "not yet". I fear that the reply may remain "not yet" for some time, due to other commitments. I hope that the Sword of Rome series will provide some compensation though in the form of a prequel, as opposed to sequel. For those of you who have read Standard Bearer without having first read Augustus: Son of Rome you may be interested to know that the characters of Oppius, Roscius, Tiro Casca and Julius Caesar all feature heavily throughout Augustus: Son of Rome too.

Thanks as always to Matthew Lynn and everyone at Endeavour Press.

Should you be interested in some further reading then I can recommend the works of Adrian Goldsworthy, particularly his biography of Julius Caesar and also In The Name Of Rome. The works of Cicero, Suetonius and Plutarch are classics for good reasons too. If interested in reading more historical fiction on Rome then I can recommend Conn Iggulden, Steven Saylor, Simon Scarrow and Robert Harris.

Should you have enjoyed Standard Bearer or Augustus: Son of Rome and wish to get in touch I can be reached via [email?protected]

This book is dedicated to John McGrath??-??courageous, smart, stoical and fun.

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