Authors: Griff Hosker
Book 11 in the Sword of Cartimandua Series
Published by Griff Hosker 2013
Copyright © Griff Hosker First Edition
The author has asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
To Scout, the Border Collie! You are Wolf and you made the book so hard to write! Thank God you are trained now!
Table of contents
Prologue Page 5
Chapter 1 Page 10
Chapter 2 Page 28
Chapter 3 Page 44
Chapter 4 Page 62
Chapter 5 Page 80
Chapter 6 Page 96
Chapter 7 Page 114
Chapter 6 Page 130
Chapter 9 Page 145
Chapter 10 Page 166
Chapter 11 Page 186
Chapter 12 Page 204
Chapter 13 Page 220
Chapter 14 Page 236
Chapter 15 Page 251
Chapter 16 Page 259
Chapter 17 Page 276
Chapter 18 Page 293
Chapter 19 Page 311
Chapter 20 Page 328
Chapter 21 Page 346
Chapter 22 Page 368
Chapter 23 Page 388
Epilogue Page 401
The warrior saw the small turret at the end of the Roman wall; it looked strange and unlike the others which were part of a continuous defence. There were no wooden stakes and the stone was not mortared. The wall itself just ended although he could see the foundations and the prepared stone. They had built quickly since his last visit. The top of the sentry’s helmet was barely visible, occasionally peeping over the top of the ramparts and the occasional shaft of moonlight reflected from his spear point. He knew that they were Gauls; he had crossed here often enough to know that but the smell they exuded marked them as different from the legionaries and the hated horse warriors. Had it been the legion he would have found it more difficult to evade detection but the Gauls, fierce warriors though they were, did not like to perform sentry duties. They preferred huddling beneath their cloaks trying to keep out the perfidious cold which seeped into their bodies.
He crawled cautiously towards the gap when the clouds passed before the moon, a little further forward towards the land of the Selgovae. In times past, the time of his father, he would not have dared this journey without arms and allies but, the coming of the Romans had made allies of enemies. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy seemed an appropriate phrase to use. As he drew closer to the wall he heard them talking. He could understand their words for without them, south of the wall, the world was harder and harsher; it paid to learn how to speak like a Roman. The Gauls were bemoaning the climate. The thought flickered through his mind that they would all be better off if they returned to their own homes and leave the people of Britannia to govern themselves. Perhaps this meeting, the last of many, would see that day come a little closer.
With a sigh of relief he rolled down the heather covered bank away from the wall. Even if they saw him now they could not catch him; they wore armour and he did not and the forest was but eight hundred paces from him. He got to his feet and, keeping a low profile, ran down the trail and up the rocky slope to reach his destination; the rock of the wolf. It had been named by all the tribes for it resembled, from a certain angle, a howling wolf. As a feature in the landscape it stood out from all the other strange rock formations. Once there he was safe and he settled down with his back to the rock to await his guide.
Far to the south, at the other extreme of the province, a woman lay dying. Aula Luculla was a bitter woman. She had deserted her husband, the Governor at the time, to flee with his nephew, her lover. Deserted by Decius Sallustius she had raised the two children he left in her when he fled Britannia, alone. Whilst not penniless she had been forced to hide both her name and the names of her two lovers. Both men had been deemed to be enemies of Rome. Her husband had been executed whilst his nephew had been hunted and killed by his own brother in Gaul. She had spent the long years alone afraid of detection and nurturing an unnatural hate for her lover’s brother.
Now her children were gathered at her bedside for a final journey, a journey she would take alone. Her illness had been long and painful. Gone was the beautiful woman who had intoxicated men and made them willing to sacrifice their honour for her; now she was emaciated and gaunt. Her red hair was now riven with grey and falling out in hanks. Her fingers and arms were skeletal. Her sunken cheeks made her look far older than her real age. Each child held a hand. She had been a good mother to them both, bringing them up alone in Londinium; teaching them to be survivors.
“I am dying.” Neither child showed any emotion; their mother had taught them well. “Apart from this home and a few coins I have little to leave you. But I can offer you gold.” There was the slightest flicker from their eyes. Gold had been the downfall of both their mother and their father but that did not stop it from being their own addictive drug. “Your father sent me a letter.” She held it up to them. “When he fled to Gaul with the Druid’s gold he secreted one box, just in case he returned. It is buried at the bend of the river where he took ship. You need to ask questions of the men of Marcus’ Horse and discover where that was. When you find them then you must also kill the one who wields the Sword of Cartimandua; I know not who it is but I know that the sword helped bring about the downfall of your father and an end to my hopes of joy. ” She gave a wan smile. “I have taught you well enough for you to be discreet. You will need to hide your family name for it is known in that part of the world. That is my inheritance but I also charge you with a mission. I want you to promise that you will kill your father’s brother, your uncle, Livius Lucullus Sallustius, prefect of the ala called Marcus’ Horse. He is the reason your father was killed and the ala was responsible for our poverty. Promise me that you will exact revenge on them all.”
“We promise.” Their voices, like their minds were as one.
She sighed and gave a brief, contented smile, “Good then I can die and meet your father in the afterlife knowing that we have had our revenge on all who brought harm to us.”
They sat with their mother until she gave the last gasp of life and death took her. They looked at each other. “It is best we separate. We have more chance of success alone.”
“I agree but we will both need to be at Eboracum.”
“I will find this ala.”
“And I will find the gold. I will see you in Eboracum.”
They took the two rings from their mother’s fingers; one from her husband and one from their father. They each placed a ring on the other’s finger. “This will be our sign; the ring on the middle finger.”
When the breath had gone form her body, they held hands and both said a silent prayer for the only parent they had known. Finally they took the letter and read it.
My Dearest Aula,
If you have received this letter then I am dead. For that I am sorry- I loved life but I am sorry that you did not share in my victory as much as I would have hoped.
I hope that I have killed my brother but if I have not, then swear that you will do so. In return I can offer you that which you prize the most, Gold!
Before I left Eboracum, I buried a box of gold. It is at the place that they ambushed us. It is buried beneath a dead elm tree which is ten paces from the river where the bend is the most acute. I hope you get the gold and, if you do, reward Marcus’ Horse with the pain they deserve.
Decius Lucullus Sallustius
Camulodunum 123 A.D
Governor Aulus Platorius Nepos had had to visit the settlement devastated sixty years earlier in the Boudiccan revolt. The Temple of Claudius had been both cleaned and painted but even now, sixty years later, there was still the mental image of the women and children being burned alive. The colonia had been rebuilt; the veterans had returned but it was no longer the heart of the province. It felt, somehow, tainted. The Governor had paid his respects at the temple of the father of Britannia and the largest building in the province. He shook himself and turned to his aide. “And how far is it again to the wall of Hadrian?”
Appius Serjanus was an ambitious young patrician who had secured his appointment through his father’s influence. They both knew of the incredible wealth of the province which was largely untapped. Now that the wall was almost complete, father and son saw the opportunity to profit from the Empire’s investment. “It is over two hundred miles sir.”
“Ye Gods! Please tell me there is accommodation along the way?”
“Yes Governor. There are forts and mansio at regular intervals although once we are beyond Eboracum they are a little basic in nature.”
“So long as they have baths.”
“I heard, Governor, that they have built a bath house, already, on the wall.”
“Well that is good news at least. We have delayed long enough, Appius summon the decurion.”
The cavalry escort was a turma from the Sixth Victrix legion which the Governor had brought to finish the building of the wall. The legionaries were hard at work in that cold northern outpost but Governor Nepos had wanted a tour of the safer southern lands before braving the harsh frontier. Now that Emperor Hadrian had left for Africa and the east, it was incumbent upon him to oversee the work. He saw it as a legacy for him, for all time. ‘
; it had a good ring to it. This would be his opportunity to leave his mark for posterity.
Far to the north, Legate Julius Demetrius was feeling the northern clime more than most. Although he had served in Britannia for many years, his sojourn in Surrentum had made him prefer the warm nights which followed those, always, hot days of Italy rather than the chilling cold nights and wet days of the northern province. Here it was freezing nights after cold days.
He was pleased with the progress of the wall. Since they had established the line from the west and begun the line from the east he had been able to concentrate his patrols in the centre section. Of course that was, perforce, close to the highest part of the land but it could not be helped. The Votadini and the Selgovae were not taking the physical intrusion of a wall into their land well. The wall looked imposing close up but from a distance, as the Legate knew, it looked awesome. Faced with concrete and painted white it stood out above the green and grey of the grass and rocks. It had done, as the Emperor Hadrian had intended, it had shown the barbarians that the Romans were here to stay. What it had not done, as the Legate knew to his cost, was to tell the barbarians that this was the limit of Rome. The tribes north of the barrier seemed to regard it as an affront to their manhood that Rome had dared to tell them where they could and could not go.
He reined his horse in and the tent party of cavalrymen halted behind him. From his vantage point he could see the legionaries of the Sixth Victrix busily building the wall. Beyond them he could see the heather covered moor land stretching away to the forests in the north. He could not see them but he knew that the barbarians were there, just watching and waiting for a slip up, a moment’s distraction and the builders of Hadrian’s Britannic monument would be slaughtered. The camp, just north of the Stanegate, had guards, despite the fact that it was south of the wall. Until both ends were joined the barbarians could slip through as the Sixth had found to their cost on numerous occasions. The sentries saluted the Legate as he rode through the two gates and headed for the workers. First Spear, Quintus Licinius Brocchus, was like his men, without his helmet as he toiled alongside them. Gone were the days when they could work without armour; too many men had been killed in surprise attacks and they worked with the chafing armour which did, at least, afford some protection.