A good day to be a legionnaire

A free sample from The Children of the Seventh Son, Dark Age Book 2, Interlude 1 

Roman cavalry re-enactors. Source: Codrin.B / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0 & GFDL

“Boys, our scouts have found the barbarian camp just over that ridge,” the Centurion said.

Tullus Ionicus tightened his grip on the reins and tried to control his breathing. His horse, Albus, stirred under his hips. Tullus could hear his own pulse in his ears.

It was a perfect day for a battle. The late summer sun shone and warmed the cavalrymen’s shoulders, but the morning air was still cool. Tullus breathed deep, smelling grass and barbarian flowers and, faintly, the barbarians’ cooking fires.

Tullus adjusted his grip on his lance. The Avars had roamed Dacia now for years, as if they owned the place. Today, the Legion would show their Gepid allies who really was in charge: Rome. The greatest civilization, the most powerful empire that ever was or ever would be.

The Centurion gave the signal: a sword flashed downward, reflecting the morning sun. Tullus kicked his heels against his horse’s sides, in time with his brethren. He thrilled to feel the horse surge to a gallop.

They reached the crest of the ridge in seconds. Beyond, the plain spread out. In a perfect line, the cavalry troop charged down the far side of the ridge.

He saw the barbarian camp. Men, women and children ran from cooking fires and tents. In the middle, a whole pig roasted on a spit. A group of women and children ran away, up the far slope toward a line of trees.

They could not outrun horses.

A group of barbarian men ran toward the Legion, raising crude swords and spears in a futile attempt at defence. Tullus aimed his lance and struck a barbarian in the throat, a full yard out of the reach of the man’s long arm and sword.

The horse thundered past before Tullus could see the barbarian’s blood spurt. Now he was in the thick of the camp, surrounded by tents and panicked barbarians and Romans on armoured horses.

Tullus put his lance into its bracket, tucking it under his left arm, and drew his sword. He swung, satisfied with the smooth motion with which he severed a woman’s head from her shoulders. The barbarian fell on the child she carried.

Two fewer barbarians to clutter this land.

North face of the Mausoleum of the Julii in Glanum, southern France, showing a cavalry battle, c. 40 BC Source: Wikimedia Commons

A barbarian man, mouth wide, ran toward him with an axe raised. Tullus swung his sword again, carving a deep wound in the barbarian’s shoulder. The man fell beneath the hooves of his horse, but Tullus did not hear the sound.

Albus had carried him past the camp now, and was gaining on the women and children running up the far slope toward the trees. He swung his sword, barely feeling the bodies it cleaved. He swung harder and was pleased to see the blade cleave off the top of a barbarian’s skull.

He reined in. Albus turned and Tullus took in the scene around him. He saw legionnaires killing barbarians, stabbing them with spears, or using swords to chop off limbs.

The barbarians’ tents were burning, and more than one barbarian ran and fell in flames.

One barbarian knelt amid the slaughter, shouting “We surrender!” in heavily accented Latin. The Centurion dismounted, approached and thrust his short sword through the barbarian’s throat.

The Centurion turned and shouted to the cavalrymen. “Round them up! These prisoners will be a fitting gift to the emperor.”

Tullus sighed. There would be no more killing today. He shook his sword to get some of the blood off before he dismounted.

A woman knelt on the ground, hands together, babbling in her barbaric language. He tore her rough dress over her head and used it to clean his sword.

He looked at the woman. She wept and trembled, but otherwise did not move. She continued to babble.

“You sound like a bitch,” he said. “Nice tits, though.” He loosened his belt, dropped his girdle and pushed the bitch onto her back.

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What is The Children of the Seventh Son?

The year 600 of the Christian Era—the darkest time of the Dark Age.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

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