The Blood of Rome | Chapter 17 of 58 - Part: 1 of 5

Author: Simon Scarrow | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1374 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER FIVE

‘That’s it.’ Macro steadied the fishing rod in the boy’s hands and patted him gently on the shoulder, as they stood on the edge of the river, not far from the city. ‘You’ve got it, Lucius. Now you have to be patient. When the fish comes to the bait you must let it take a good bite. Not a nibble. You’ll feel the rod move a little in your hands. But don’t pull sharply yet. Wait for the fish to jerk the rod. Then you strike. Pull back hard to fix the hook and the fish is yours.’

Lucius looked up with an excited grin. ‘Mine to eat for supper!’

‘That’s right. Of course, if you are really good, you’ll catch enough for all of us to eat for supper.’

‘Yes. I promise, Uncle Macmac.’

‘Now then, young lad. You’re old enough to stop using baby talk. No need for Macmac now. You can call me Macro when it’s just you, me, Petronella or your dad about. Otherwise it’s Centurion Macro, or sir. You understand?’

Lucius looked up seriously and nodded. ‘Why?’

‘If you want to be a soldier one day, you need to get used to it. Best start early, eh?’ Macro reached down and repositioned his hand on the fishing rod. ‘Now, concentrate. Uncle Macro’s hungry and he wants fish for supper. Those are your orders for the day. Catch fish.’

‘Catch fish,’ Lucius repeated and pressed his lips together as he stared fixedly at the point where the line entered the flow of the river, creating a faint V on the surface of the water. Macro eased himself back and climbed through the reeds growing along the bank until he reached level ground, where Petronella was sitting in the shade of the trees as she unpacked the small hamper they had brought with them from Tarsus. The city, some two miles away, was just visible above a bend in the river, white stone and red-tiled roofs bright in the sunshine.

‘I could use a drink,’ said Macro as he sat heavily beside her.

Petronella handed him a flask filled from the public well outside the silversmith’s house. They could have drunk from the river, but few people were prepared to do that downstream of a city. Macro pulled out the stopper, raised the neck of the flask to his lips and took several gulps before he set it down.

‘Needed that. It’s a hot day.’

‘Too hot.’ Petronella was fluttering a fan at the side of her face. ‘I doubt I’ll get used to it.’

‘You will. I’ve seen enough of the Empire to know a person can get used to anything: the bitter cold and snow of the north, or the glare of the sun on a desert, so bright it hurts your eyes. You’ll see.’

She glanced at him. ‘Are we likely to be here some time?’

‘Depends on the Parthians. If they’re sensible, they’ll see that Nero means business and they’ll back off and leave Armenia to us. Once Rome makes a decision then everyone knows that we’ll see it through to the end, whatever it takes. That’s the reputation we’ve built up ever since the earliest times. Makes our enemies think twice before they take us on.’

‘And yet the Parthians have decided to take Rome on.’

‘Parthia’s different,’ said Macro. ‘They think they’re our equal. That’s why they’re prepared to take the risk from time to time.’

‘And are they? As powerful as Rome?’

‘Of course not,’ Macro sniffed. ‘Bunch of soft easterners. All flowing robes and eye make-up, as I recall.’

‘And yet they’re confident enough to defy Rome,’ Petronella mused. ‘Can’t be that much of a pushover then. And if they’re so soft, why haven’t we made them part of the Empire already?’

Macro did not particularly like this line of questioning. It cast doubt on the proficiency of the Roman legions, of which he was inordinately proud. So he reverted to the standard line taken by soldiers keen to dispel the reputation of the Parthians.

‘Oh, I suppose they can put up a decent fight from time to time. But the truth of it is that they’re not proper soldiers. They don’t fight fair. They’re a crafty, devious, downright dishonest bunch. Full of tricks and traps. That’s the only reason they’ve given us any trouble over the years.’

Petronella thought a moment. ‘Sounds to me like they’ve found a successful way to deal with you and your legions.’

Macro laughed and patted her hand indulgently. ‘Leave soldiering to the experts, my love. We know what we’re talking about. I’m telling you. We’ll sort the Parthians out without much trouble.’

‘I hope so.’ She stared at him and then cupped his bristly cheek in her hand. ‘I’m just worried for you. That’s all. You, and your friend Cato.’ She nodded in the direction of Lucius, his head just visible amid the gently swaying tops of the reeds. ‘And Lucius. He’s already lost his mother. And his grandfather. Cato’s all the family he has left.’ She took his hand and squeezed it. ‘I just want you both to come back from the campaign alive.’

‘We’ve managed to survive so far. Been a few times when I thought we were done for, not that I’d admit to it at the time. But we’ll be fine. I swear it, by Jupiter Best and Greatest.’

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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