The Paul Anthony Collection

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Uncuffed


'UNCUFFED'
'Uncuffed'

UNCUFFED:
From Paul Anthony Associates
Publishing Date: July, 2014

This is an anthology of work written, edited, published and promoted exclusively by police writers from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Some of the writers are published authors in their own right and others have never been published before. 

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Proceeds from the sale of this work will be donated to COPS: 
A charity registered in England and Wales (1101478) and in Scotland (SCO038541) which is
‘Dedicated to the Care of Police Survivors.’

Rights to individual works reside with the artists themselves. Each author is attributed to their work and is listed herein. This collection contains work submitted to the publisher by individual authors who confirm that the work is their original creation. All rights are reserved under international copyright conventions.
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Cover Image © Ian McCrone Photography
Edited by Meg Johnston.
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 Published by
Paul Anthony Associates
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This book is available in PRINT at the following link = Uncuffed
and from the amazon kindle stores by following this link = Uncuffed
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The following is extracted from 'Uncuffed'.

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Foreword
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Having served for 30 years as a police officer, I have the greatest admiration for those men and women who serve to care for their fellow citizens, without fear or favour and, more often than not, without appreciation. My first real contact with the police was when I left the Merchant Navy, having served for 10 years as a navigating officer. I knew as soon as I joined as a probationer constable that it was probably the best day’s work I ever did. The men and women I met and worked with in every department of the service were some of the best people I have ever known, good team members, trustworthy and good to have beside you in a crisis. During my final years in Carlisle, as superintendent, the teams of officers policing the city were superb, dedicated to their public and always positive.
The Police Service has always been a “can do” organisation and this anthology of stories, poems, comments and observations, written by officers, many of whom I have known personally, proves that this philosophy is true. Their talent is obvious and I wish them all well in their writing ambitions.
We were the lucky ones who lived to complete our service and moved, unscathed (more or less), into retirement to enjoy our latter years comfortably with our families and friends. Unfortunately, many who served were not so lucky and suffered death or serious injury serving their communities. The proceeds of this book are in aid of COPS (Care of Police Survivors), a registered charity which provides care and support for the families of police officers who have lost their lives whilst on duty. It was a great privilege to be asked to write this foreword – as it was to serve with many dedicated officers throughout the years. In retirement there is nothing more enjoyable than getting together with ex-colleagues and recounting old times!
I am sure you will enjoy the varied contributions in this book. It is nice to see that cynicism within the service is not dead! That helps to keep some senior feet “on the ground”.
When you have finished it, remember that it was a book written by police officers for police officers, and their families. Just remember the ones, many of whom we have known personally, who cannot be here to enjoy it and salute every one of them.

G.M.McCrone (MBE)
Penrith 1st July 2014

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R E V I E W
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UNCUFFED
An Anthology
From Paul Anthony Associates.

Paul Anthony is an established writer of crime thrillers who draws from his many years of policing experience to add colour and flavour to his work.
However, in this Anthology he has pulled together written works from a number of ex and serving police officers from the UK and US whose collective experiences are almost too many to count.
This has resulted in an eclectic mixture of short stories, poems, rhyming narrative and other short works which stretch from fantasy and young adult, to romantic through to satire and gritty crime thrillers. There is something for everyone.
From literary prose to contemporary procedurals, there is a wonderful depth and array of reading pleasures here waiting to be consumed. Showcasing writers from both sides of the Atlantic – some already published, and some soon to be so – this only whets my appetite of what is still to come.
With proceeds going to a fine charity – as in COPS – which tirelessly help survivors of officers who have lost their lives protecting us all; the purchase of this Anthology is the least we can all do. It serves as a reminder of the daily dangers facing our boys and girls in blue – some of which are touched on in these stories.
This is a well-crafted mixture of written works, none of which take more than ten minutes to read, so it is a joy to pick up and put down as busy schedules allow; an ideal companion on the commute to work or at the end of the day.
Not only will you come away from this Anthology sated with your every emotion involved, you will feel informed on many levels.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Anthology and congratulate everyone who contributed to the various different pieces.
Excellent, informative, emotional and just fun to read.

‘An eclectic mix of great stories to please everyone.’
Roger A Price, Author of ‘By Their Rules’ and ‘A new Menace’.

Review:
Doing something good while being entertained — it’s a tried and true formula as any fundraising organizer will tell you. Readers will certainly check both boxes with Uncuffed, a new anthology featuring established and new police writers from the United States and United Kingdom. The thirty-four entries include essays, poems, short stories, and book excerpts covering an eclectic variety of subjects. This review is based on a copy of the anthology provided to me for that purpose.
As for the “doing good” part of the equation: proceeds from Uncuffed will be donated to Care of Police Survivors (COPS), a charity dedicated to supporting the families of UK police officers killed in the line of duty. A truly worthy cause.
I was familiar with a few of writers featured in Uncuffed — Paul Anthony is a personal favorite, and I was pleased to see an excerpt from The Fragile Peace (my review) included — but discovering new voices is one of the best parts of reading an anthology, isn’t it? I found the short stories “Dying for a Chat” by Dave Miller, “Risk—90s Style” by Ray Gregory and “Paper Trail” by Wayne Zurl to be particular enjoyable.
My laughter was somewhat bittersweet reading the essay “Writing the Wrongs” by The Station Sergeant. I can’t say what exactly, but something happened to the world as a whole in the 1990s as The Sergeant’s description of changes to the police services in the UK mirrored my perception of how the U.S. Navy I enlisted into in the early 1980s began to morph at that time into the one I retired from in 2003.
Full disclosure, I was asked to contribute to this anthology and within readers will indeed find a couple chapters from my first novel, Carpathia. Honored to be asked, my bonafides for inclusion are certainly the weakest of the lot: after 9/11, I served for six months in the newly created position of Force Protection Officer for the naval station where I was assigned.
Be entertained and do some good. Pick up Uncuffed.
Scott Whitmore, Journalist, writer, retired US Naval officer, and author of Carpathia.

Review:
A Golden Nugget

This anthology opens with a scene-setting poem by Meg Johnston who sprinkles the work with her fabulous tales of fantasy for all ages. Previously unpublished writers are well represented by Dave Miller’s thought-provoking emotive rollercoaster and Ray Gregory’s wonderfully historic tales of policing in years gone by. For me, Ian Bruce dominates this anthology with a debut piece of literary fiction that is truly stunning. Yes, Ian’s descriptive ‘Collection of Flowers’ may be a tad slow in the telling but you can sense how every word is especially chosen for inclusion. With an increased tempo and the honing of skills one has to look forward to a full blown debut novel from this author. Indeed, this book takes you on a journey through time and Edward Lightfoot brings a touch of high speed class from the cockpit of a Tornado in his Mach 2 thrill of a lifetime that will have you hanging on to your ejector seat at every twist and turn. These new British writers do themselves proud without pretension and are supported by some real favourites of mine from America: The brilliance of thriller writer Mike McNeff is complimented by the quick draw style of Wayne Zurl when the characters Robin Marlette and Sam Jenkins grace the pages. Scott Whitmore takes us on a sensational ‘Carpathian’ adventure whilst two of Britain’s best put the icing on the cake. Lancashire based Roger Price and Yorkshire based Simon Hepworth are two fantastic authors to watch in the years to come. Already published they are well and truly on my reading lists for the future but I’m not going to spoil the adventure that awaits you. There’s a multitude of genres to pick through and a cheeky mystery to solve as you turn the pages of this anthology. Who is The Station Sergeant? This nationally known character invades the work with a piece of satire that will delight many in the police family. And it explains why The Boss’s Snout pleads for information to bring down this writer of wit and wrongs. The foreword is written by George McCrone, a former senior police officer who is obviously held in high esteem by his colleagues. George captures the nature of policing and the writers whilst reminding everyone of the charity COPS for whom proceeds of this book are to be donated. The entire book is written, edited, published and promoted by a bunch of retired policemen. Even the eye-catching book cover is showcased from police photographer, Ian McCrone. ‘Uncuffed’ – worth every penny. Not just a charity chase but an outstanding piece of team work form American and British police writers who between them have also served in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. An unrepentant highly biased well deserved ‘Five Stars’ all the way.      
Tony Scougal, Retired....


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Pubisher’s Note
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On behalf of the writers of ‘Uncuffed’ we would like to place on record our thanks to the following who have given up their time and expertise in the creation of this anthology by editing, reviewing or consulting with us regarding the work, and providing a cover in order that we might showcase our book. This has been a 'team event'.
With particular thanks to Meg Johnston, Roger Price, Simon Hepworth, George McCrone and Ian McCrone Photography.
Additionally, we offer a special word of thanks to our retired American police colleagues Mike McNeff and Wayne Zurl as well as our ‘special guest author’ Scott Whitmore: A retired US Navy officer. They have all contributed to this work and supported our endeavours without reservation.
This anthology was created, written, edited, published and promoted by a collection of retired police officers working in co-operation with each other across our homeland and across a pond that divides us yet also unites us.
Thank you…

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With thanks to the following writers and authors who have contributed to our anthology.
Thank you... 

Meg Johnston, The Station Sergeant, The Boss’s Snout, 

Ray Gregory, Ian Bruce, Dave Miller, 

Simon Hepworth, Edward Lightfoot, Mike McNeff, 

Wayne Zurl, Scott Whitmore, Roger Price and Paul Anthony


Please note - 
You will find the books of published authors Simon Hepworth, Mike McNeff, Wayne Zurl, Scott Whitmore, Roger Price and Paul Anthony on the crime carousels to the right of your screen.
Thank you for supporting our work and our chosen charity....

..... Proud to serve....




















Sunday, 30 March 2014

Blues and Twos?

Welcome to 'Twos and Blues': a collection of police car images from here and there. In years gone by, there was a simple 'horn warning', or a flashing light - but, as technology improved, police cars the world over adopted sirens and flashing lights to carve their way through traffic.  For me, and my time as both a police motor cyclist or a motorway patrol driver - my memories are those of what we called 'Blues and Twos'.... A blue light flashing and two distinct tones of a siren - Of course, wherever you are on the planet now, you'll get a different but similar exposition of an emergency driving procedure.  If you read 'crime thrillers of any kind you'll probably come across a chase somewhere in the plot. Well, some of the police cars here were the fastest thing on four wheels in their day. And for the police motor cyclists amongst you check out my poem at the bottom of the page. I wrote it many years ago but still recall the event vividly.



Morris Minor 1970 City of London
1951 Wolseley UK 
2014 a Lamborghini from Dubai
1919 NYPD Ford T


1920 St Orleans Packard
1955 Chevrolet


1971 MGB GT - UK
Lamborghini Gallardo 2011 - Italy
BMW Bulldogtreffen- Germany - 1950's
Ford Escort Mrk 1 - UK 1970's
GTO Australia
UK - The Mini 1969
Poland 2010


The Smart Car 2008 London
Porsche USA


Ford Dog Van, Cumbria UK - 2014


Volvo, Cumbria, UK 2014
China


So why do police vehicles need 'Twos and Blues'...
Why... To Triumph, of course...

Tango Five Seven
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A siren screaming and a blue light flashing,
Through the ‘Lakes’ a motor bike dashing.
A gear, a lean and a handful of throttle,
Carving through traffic with skill and bottle.
A radio blaring in a wintry windy ear,
Telling what was waiting, knowing what to fear.
And there was the smash! Straight through the wall!
And Tango Five Seven had answered the call.
Broken bodies, broken limbs.
Unconscious twinkling, brain that dims.
Battered, bruised, bewildered man,
Searching for survivors, the river ran.
Wading in the water deep,
Holding close, her warmth to keep.
Bleeding blood, deep red upon me.
The Lord’s call proving way beyond me.
A kiss of life,
For someone’s wife.
Respiration…. Deep frustration.
And so to hold her as she slipped away,
That angel face, with eyes so grey.
And silky soft, her hair reclining,
But I could not stop her soul declining.
I pumped the heart, as you would friend.
Yet my hands were naught, she would not mend.
‘Come in Tango Five Seven!’
I heard, I sighed, I cried….I replied.
‘Tango Five Seven,
Angel in heaven!’
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Tango Five Seven by Paul Anthony
extracted from 'Sunset'

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Chat with Roy Huff



Q. Thank you for joining us today, Roy. Can I begin by asking - Whereabouts do you live?
A. I currently live in Honolulu, Hi. I have lived in Hawaii for twenty years now.
Q. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?
A. I like Hawaii. I don't have any plans to move. I wouldn't mind having several vacation homes in various places including Mt Fuji Japan, Seattle, Vancouver, London, Manhattan, and a few other places.
Q. Do you have a favourite film or television series?
A. My favourite movie is Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I have several television series that I love including several of the Star Trek Series, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, and others.
Q. Do you have an office or ‘space’ where you specifically write from and do you have a ‘time’ or discipline that you set aside for writing?
A. I usually write on the couch in front of the tv, but with the tv off. I am a marathon writer, and write in long bursts, usually half the day or all day, and typically on long vacations like Winter, Summer, Spring, & Fall breaks.
Q. How long have you been a writer?
A. I've had three books published in the last year. I feel I have only been a writer during that time, though, I did write the first few chapter of the first book during a two year span prior to finishing the rest of it. My other writing experience is mainly technical.  
Q. In which areas do you write? Books, television, films, magazines, articles, blogsites?
A. I have written a few articles, and I have a blog. I primarily, though, write fiction. I am partial to Scifi and fantasy, usually with a YA target audience, but not always.
Q. Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
A. I am a full time science teacher, and I have also worked as a full time research scientist. I write part time. 
Q. Have you used elements of your previous employment in which to base your writing?
A. As a scientist and science teacher, much of my knowledge and background gets incorporated into my books.
Q. Are you currently published or do you have a ‘work in action’ you can tell us about?
A. I am currently working an a futuristic, scifi, distopian, space opera. I also plan to write book #4 in the Everville series over the Summer.
Q. Are you committed to self-publishing or are you actively seeking a non-paid traditional publishing company that will commission your work?
A. I am self published, but I recently was signed by Peter Miller, and I am now represented by Global Lion Intellectual Property Management Inc. Future and current books will be actively pitched in the industry, but I am not at liberty to divulge any further information regarding possible publishing or film deals.
Q.  Do you have a particular character that figures consistently or are you in the stage of developing a lead character?
A. The lead character Owen Sage is the protagonist in all of the Everville books. He, along with his friends, should continue to appear throughout the series.
Q. Do you see yourself staying in the same genre or would you write into another genre?
A. I love science fiction and fantasy, so I plan to primarily write in the genre. I do like YA and action, so I could see overlap in those areas.
Q. Do you have a site where you display extracts from your work?
Q. If the trip was free would you travel into outer space?
A. Without a doubt. It's on my bucket list.
Q. Do you participate in sports or follow a particular sport that is your favourite?
A. I like hiking, aside from that, I'm not huge into sports.
Q. If you were to hold a dinner party which three individuals would you invite – from the present or the past - and why?
A. It's really hard to pin down. My answer will probably change if you ask me more than once. Einstein, Jesus, George Washington, and Leonardo da Vince would be a few good choices, mainly because of their genius and collective knowledge.
Q. How do you see the publishing world evolving in the years ahead?
A. I think most people agree that print is a dying media. I see ebook and subscriptions taking over the marketplace almost completely. I'm sure there are other forms that haven't even envisioned yet.
Q. Do you have any particular hobbies or interests – other than writing – that you would care to share with us?
A. I love politics, travelling, watching movies, hiking, eating good food, karaoke, drawing, and a few other things I haven't done in a while like Latin dance.
Q. Where can we found out more about your books? Can you provide a link(s) to where we might buy your books? 
A.
You can find Kindle books on Amazon, audio books of the first two books in the series on Itunes, Audible, and Amazon. The paperback and hardcover are on all major online retailers, and in a few select book stores.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BCOQSSQ/

Q. Thanks, Roy. Readers will find all three of your books on the AVID READERS carousel to the right of the screen. Just click on the book cover to arrive at the amazon store. Now then, where can we follow and support you on social media sites?
A. Twitter @evervillefans
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/evervillefans
Youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/Evervillefans
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/roy-huff/66/95a/638
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Roy-Huff/214605332007995 , https://www.facebook.com/owensagefans  & , https://www.facebook.com/pages/Everville/288870227900017
Instagram http://instagram.com/owensageblog
Blog www.owensage.com
          

Thanks for chatting with us today, Roy. Wishing you the very best of luck with your work.

P.S. Everville: The City of Worms was the winner of the March Creme de la cover competition. It has been nominated for the Rone awards for best cover of the year, which will be selected by a panel of judges in Las Vegas beginning July 11th, 2014.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A tale from The Ninth Legion


Luguvalium’s Story:
Dateline: AD 122: Luguvalium.
Alexander was a Syrian by birth, from Mesopotamia: the land lying between the rivers of the Tigris and Euphrates. His country had been under Roman rule since 64 BC. In the beginning Alexander’s ancestors had settled on the north bank of ‘al-furat’ – the Euphrates, and made their home in Ar Raqqah. Alexander’s predecessors learnt from their Roman masters. Indeed, a century earlier, before Jesus Christ was born, Gaius Julius Caesar built the bedrock of Roman Imperialism that was to last three hundred years. Not surprisingly, Alexander’s broad family counted many who had served under Rome. When he reached maturity, when he finally determined upon his life, Alexander left his home and walked alone south through the Syrian Desert.
He walked as a boy and became a man. As Alexander grew, so did the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius crossed the plains of Belgica and conquered the distant green island of Britannia. The Roman Empire spread across a continent: Baetica, Lusitania and Tarraconensis: south of the Pyrenees, fell. Aquitania, Narbonensis and Lugdunensis: in the plains of the Garonne, and the Loire, and the Seine, succumbed to the Roman Senate.
Alexander journeyed through barren plains in search of the riches he had dreamt of. Climbing Mount Hermon, he saw the Golan Heights and Damascus. It was in Damascus that Alexander enlisted with the Roman army under Emperor Trajan. He learnt of the Roman Gods, Fortuna, Jupiter and Mars, and abandoned his own religion in favour of the Roman icons. Alexander kept his own language but learnt the tongue of his fellow soldiers. Serving with distinction in Asia Minor and Germania, he was posted in AD 108 to Eboracum, Britannia, where the rivers of the Ouse and the Fosse meet. Alexander was respected by all around him. Tactics and strategy were his hallmarks but he was also a great fighter, valiant and bold in the family tradition. He gained promotion through the ranks to Chief Standard Bearer: ‘Optio ad Spem’. He was a centurion: one of sixty centurions, each of whom commanded a ‘century’ of eighty men. His century was the first century of the second cohort of the Ninth Legion. He was a senior centurion and had been appointed ‘primus pilus’: the chief centurion of his legion. As primus pilus, Alexander commanded his legion in the absence of the Legate. Alexander was of proven bravery; a man who was a leader of fighting men, a man respected by his century and cohort, and feared by his enemies. Each cohort contained six centuries, or four hundred and eighty men. Alexander’s century consisted of ten units of eight men. Each unit of eight men formed a ‘contubernium’ and they lived together in the same quarters. There were ten cohorts in the legion that was overseen by six ‘tribunes’. Tribunes were Roman citizens who each regulated the lives of eight hundred men. In addition, two or three hundred civilian workers supported each legion. They were generally engineers, surveyors, musicians and clerks. A ‘Legate’ commanded the legion and was a man of Senatorial class. The Legate spoke in the Senate at Rome and was a politician, a man who might be Emperor, and Alexander’s Legate was in overall command of the Ninth Legion.
The Legion had sworn to a man to be faithful to their Emperor, had sworn never to leave the line of battle except to save a comrade’s life, and had sworn allegiance to Rome, for that was the way of Rome. The Roman army that conquered the known world had structure, discipline and strength. It was formidable. It thought it was invincible.
As primus pilus, Alexander obeyed orders and led his men north to green and desolate lands where no discernible border existed. Under his Standard of the Ninth Legion, Alexander camped on the banks of the River Eden, in the town of Luguvalium. Governor Petillius Cerialis had defeated local Brigante tribes and built a fort at Luguvalium in AD 71. Governor Agricola then reinforced that fort with turf and stronger defences nine years later. As one of the most northerly forts in the Empire, Luguvalium proved one of the most important commands in the region. Ever since, occasional bands of marauding Picts had raided the settlement, damaged its fort umpteen times, and enraged Rome. About AD 80, the Romans abandoned any attempt to expand north of Luguvalium and withdrew from the frontier to consolidate their holdings. They strengthened their troublesome border by building another fort on twenty acres of land, by the River Caldew.
It was summer and Alexander’s Ninth Legion had ventured north towards the lands of the Picts, the north-westerly outpost of the Roman Empire. Once the year was through, Alexander expected to receive the Emperor’s Diploma of Discharge and return to Rome to live in peace.
Tired by his journey from Eboracum, Alexander rested by the Eden as twilight hovered and sand martins, ducks and kingfishers played amongst rustling reeds. He feasted on deer and hare, caught in nearby fields, and washed down the last of their raisins and dates with a superior red wine from a clay goblet. Guarding the perimeter of the camp, his sentries occupied high ground on the banks of Stanwix, north of the river, where the Legion’s surveyors plotted another fort. Further north, his scouts carried out reconnaissance and gathered military intelligence.
It had been a long week and a long hard march to these unfriendly lands. Fatigue became their final friend, a friend to be shunned with the welcome advent of rest. In coming days, the Ninth Legion would be joined by elements of the Second Augusta Legion, the Twentieth Valeria Victrix and the Sixth Legion. An important meeting on strategy was to be held. This meeting was to be held in council and was of such importance that all legions based in Britannia were to be represented. Many cohorts from these legions marched with celebrated pomp and grandeur to join the Ninth at Luguvalium. Once present, Rome’s military leaders would discuss orders received from the Senate: a great work was to be undertaken. Luguvalium was proud to be chosen for the great council for it was the most important centre in the north. The Legion would provide escort and security for the momentous assembly. The Ninth’s Legate was charged with ensuring that the council was not attacked by an errant band of Picts. Other legions would secure the surrounding countryside while their leaders spoke. Once the grand meeting was over and food had been eaten, and wines quaffed, the Ninth would return to Eboracum and prepare for their triumphant return to Rome. Their long tour of duty was nearly over; others would finish the project.
Alexander polished his Legion’s Standard, proudly arranged his armour, attended his tunic, smoothed out his leather shorts, and cleaned his coveted weapons. Beside him, on a small wooden stool, sat his uncle’s gift: the Tablet of Masada. It was Hussein’s astonishing present to the centurion. The tablet was small and handy-sized, measuring nine inches by six inches by three inches, and when the sun caught the handicraft, it occasionally glinted. Alexander had carried the tablet with him since the days of his youth, fascinated by its image and strangely drawn to the mystical rock. The legacy had been handed down from Hussein – the Syrian archer – to a beloved sister and mother and then promised to son and nephew, Alexander. The tablet had accompanied Alexander, man and boy, through every battle and skirmish he had fought. From his desert home in Ar Raqqah, to Damascus, to Asia Minor, to Germania, and now Britannia, the tablet had been his keepsake. Once the tablet had probably saved his life when a Briton had lunged at his stomach with a knife. Now the tablet bore a dull impression where a Briton’s blade had glanced from the stone missing Alexander’s belly and saving him from certain death in the process. The tablet rested next to Alexander’s vine wood staff: a staff that signified his rank. Alexander weighed his stone affectionately and placed the tablet in his bundle of blankets as he settled down to sleep. He felt tiredness in his legs and stiffness in his back. He felt black invade his eyelids as his mind drifted in fatigue and he fell into a dismal abyss of unconscious sleep.
Evening stars peeped out from behind far away clouds and sparkled over leather papilos as row upon row of the legion’s campsite drifted into sleep. Luguvalium closed its eyes and relaxed.
They were strange men, these men from the army of Rome. They were international, in the way of Rome. It was an army formed from conquered countries, fed and watered and trained in the ways of Rome. They spoke with a sharp tongue, the men of the Ninth: mainly Hispanic. Yet those understanding people of Luguvalium had welcomed their arrival, perhaps mindful of constant incursions from the Picts. It was rumoured in Luguvalium market place – some mile or so from the campsite – that a Roman Governor, Aulus Platorius Nepos, would soon arrive. It was whispered Governor Nepos planned to build a vast wall running from the mouth of the Eden, across Britannia. The wall would stretch to the mouth of a giant river in the east, the Tyne. At the mouth of the Tyne, the wall would end. This wall would be broad enough and strong enough to carry a marching army at four abreast and would define the boundary of the Roman Empire; thus preventing the Picts from pillaging the Border countryside.
Market traders and craftsmen spoke of a great general called Hadrian who was travelling to them from a place named Frankfurt in far-off lands near the rivers of the Rhine and Main. General Hadrian had been ordered by the Senate to supervise the construction of a wall. It was just rumour, they said, and then they had all laughed heartily. They’d gossiped no end. Townsfolk had tittle-tattled and shilly-shallied constantly. It was just speculation, wasn’t it? No one could possibly build a wall in the middle of nowhere, they’d cackled. In any case, how would they make such a wall meet in the middle? They would have to build it from either east to west or west to east. If they didn’t, then east and west must compromise somewhere in the middle of the moors and arrange to meet half way. They’d giggled at the prospect of a thousand Roman slaves building a wall that failed to meet in the middle. Would they build their wall close to the Stanegate Road, the road running across the Tyne – Solway isthmus? In any event, what name would they give their wall, the wall of Nepos? Some said it would be called Hadrian’s Dyke, and there had been laughter. Others named it Hadrian’s Folly, and there had been sniggering. Who would man the wall? Where would the guards live? How would they exist in the cruel wintry lands between east and west? And what was known of those strange people from east Britannia? Did they not speak with an accent warped beyond recognition? There had been whooping laughter again. It was just rumour, wasn’t it? Either way, the townsfolk of Luguvalium looked forward to many riches that would come from being a garrison of such importance….
The invaders were marching. Men had left their homes in the far north. They had gathered in huge numbers, walked due south, and flattened the ground before them. They had arrived.
North of the Eden, north of Stanwix, they assembled in a multitude during the night. Dangerous, hungry men with long unkempt hair, rugged faces and straggly untamed beards, had trudged through lowlands in search of riches. Their dress bore no resemblance to Roman uniforms. They originated from Caledonia: a distant country north of the Borderlands. They were Picts and wore heavy coloured robes to protect them from the cold. Their robes were a dull chequered garment skirting just above the knee. The kilt, as they called it, swished smoothly with a strong movement from the hips. The Picts carried axes, clubs, an occasional bow or a lethal slingshot. Yet they wore no particular armour to speak of. They had crossed high mountains, great rivers, and deep valleys before the lowlands greeted them and a fresh, salty smell of a nearby Firth invaded their nostrils.
The men of Caledonia – all twelve thousand of them – crept cautiously towards an unmarked border that carried no wall to hinder them.
‘Duncan the Bold’ led the Caledonian Picts. His tall, rugged frame dominated those around him as he ordered three captured Roman scouts to be put to death by the sword. Once Alexander’s scouts had been tortured and interrogated, they were disposed of. They were butchered without a prayer. Duncan had neither time nor inclination to take prisoners now that the way was clear to strike south towards the River Eden and Luguvalium. The daring Caledonian planned to delight his eyes with a view of a settlement built on the southern flank of the Eden between the tributaries of the Petteril and Caldew. It was indeed a unique site maturing within the confines of three rivers. Its attraction was obvious since between the triad of bountiful rivers lay rich and luscious green lands. Luguvalium prospered from the wealth of fertile soils, unlike the rocky, heather-clad grounds of Caledonia. Once dawn broke, Duncan’s Picts would storm across the wooden bridge, which divided the fields of Stanwix and Luguvalium.
Duncan led the invasion.
Cautiously, the multitude tramped over cold barren moors until they found a deserted broken fort that had seen better days. Silently, they looked down on rows of sleeping tents below. Duncan disciplined his men, gathered his clans’ leaders about him, and planned his final assault.
The first welcome chink of piercing daylight broke through a grey night as Alexander turned in his slumbers. A frenzied hand shook the centurion’s broad shoulder.
‘Primus pilus! Primus pilus!’ A hushed but pained voice invaded Alexander’s ear. ‘Primus pilus, waken up! Our scouts have not returned. The God, Jupiter, has abandoned us.’
Opening his eyes suddenly, Alexander rolled instinctively and grasped the hilt of his sword. ‘What manner is this that you wake me in the dead of night, Julius?’
‘The guards report our scouts have not returned. Men have been sighted in yonder fields of Stanwix,’ replied Julius, a trusted legionary. His stifled voice was trembling with excitement.
‘Then they are fickle and still tired from our long march, Julius. Their stupid eyes play ungodly tricks in this cold and desolate land. You worry to much, my friend.’
‘No, Alexander! Men gather in the dark woods, north of the river.’ Urgency rose in Julius’s voice. ‘We are in great danger, Primus pilus. Our perimeter guards heard noises and report many legions of fighting men nearby. They carry arms and march without precision to an old wooden fort.’
‘Many legions! How many legions, Julius?’
‘We are outnumbered two to one or more.’
Rising abruptly, reaching for his apparel, Alexander began to dress. Sheathing his sword, he said, ‘Then the God, Fortuna, has warned us, my good friend. Raise our tribune quickly, Julius, then wake our centuries. We must defend this camp for we have no orders of retreat. This ground must be held for the Emperor.’
Julius ran swiftly from Alexander’s papilo and hurriedly roused the second cohort, passing Alexander’s order by word of mouth as night clouds moved casually to one side in deference to the onset of bullying daylight.
When he was dressed and armed with his vine wood staff, Alexander rushed to his Commander’s side and, without pretension, woke his sleeping leader.
‘My legate, rise quickly! A band of Picts threatens us.’
A balding man wallowed in uncertainty, clutched night attire to his prominent gut and rose to greet Alexander. Then he burped. The legate’s baldhead shook in annoyance at Alexander’s intrusion. He burped again. He was such an arrogant man.
‘The guards?’ he asked anxiously, wiping his mind clear of wicked dreams. ‘Where are our guards, Alexander? Have them deal with this band of unruly rabble. Put them to the sword if need be.’
‘The guards have roused me, my legate. Our scouts have not yet returned but our sentries report an army of men in the fields of Stanwix, near the old fort that lies in decay. We are outnumbered, two to one, by all accounts. I fear for our scouts, my noble leader. I have made arrangements for your tribune to be at your side since I fear the worse, my legate.’
‘An army, you say?’
‘It is surely an army of Picts, my legate, an army from the far reaches of Caledonia. Only the lands of Caledonia are yet to be brought to heel, to feel our sword, to see our Standards planted in their mother earth.’
‘There is no time for a council of war,’ mused the worried legate. ‘No time for a sacrifice at the altar before battle.’ Dressed hurriedly, he barked, ‘Sound the alarm, Alexander. What manoeuvre do we need?’
‘Defend the bridge, my legate,’ advised Alexander boldly. ‘It is the entrance to this town from Stanwix and the chosen route by which General Hadrian will forge north and defend Britannia’s moors whilst our great wall is being built. The waters run deep there, too deep to charge across, my legate. So our enemy must use that bridge. He cannot wade those waters without loss. Unless…’
Pausing, Alexander drew his sword and scrawled the course of the river in soil at their feet… He mapped their camp… He etched the banks of Stanwix… He imprinted Luguvalium in the soil…
‘Unless our enemy moves men downstream and seeks out shallow waters, if so, we may find ourselves under attack from all four sides. I know not my enemy nor his tactic but I know how I would use such an army. I would half my force and cross in the shallows. They will surround us for they have great numbers whilst we are only a legion strong. We must remain tight and mass together. We should not disperse our men. Hold tight, I say. We must hold this bridge even if Luguvalium is lost.’
‘Damn them! They could be at our rear already!’
‘It is true, my legate. I advise you to mass our legion in a square formation and block that bridge over the river. It is the key to everything.’
‘A square formation you say, a strange manoeuvre, Alexander?’
‘If we are attacked from the rear then our square will hold until relieved or until we stand no more. I say light our bonfire now. There is half a legion camped in a fort near the River Caldew. Our smoke will signal reinforcements to our side. We should also send a messenger to the Sixth by the shores of the great lake; the lake the Britons call Ullswater.’
The legate’s face twisted. He looked down at the soil and etchings made by Alexander’s blade and then turned and walked towards a small table resting in one corner of the papilo. Snatching a square of beeswax from the table, he began writing a message in the soft media. Once his letter was finished, the legate read it over in his mind. The beeswax was contained within a wooden frame. The frame folded over to hide the message and could be carried easily in a pocket or the palm of a hand. Satisfied, the legate balled his fist and punched the beeswax with the imprint of his ring. Then he folded the beeswax letter over and handed it to Alexander.
‘You are correct, Alexander. See to it.’
The bald man poured water from a jug into a basin, patted his cheeks with water, and dried his hands with soft towelling. He drained the last mouthful of wine from a cup and felt its distaste on his tongue.
‘We are five thousand strong, our enemy is ten or more, you say, Alexander. This is not just a band of marauding Picts out for quick plunder, my friend. This is an invasion of our lands… And soon, our great council… That’s just what I needed. It is a nightmare, Alexander.’
Throwing down his towel, the legate then banished his wine cup to the floor as the first of his tribunes rushed into the tent.
‘Where’ve you been, tribune? Sleep well, did you?’
‘Sorry, I…’
‘No matter,’ scowled the legate, turning away from the tribune and facing Alexander. ‘Primus pilus! This is a stab to the heart. Invasion! Such men have no honour, my friend. Do you not agree?’
‘My noble legate sees our problem well,’ replied Alexander. ‘Our strength lies in our discipline and training. We can hold out against the enemy but we have no reserves with which to counter-attack and push these invaders into the wastelands of the north.’
‘Primus pilus, Standard bearer of the Ninth Legion, prove again how well you defend the Ninth’s Standard,’ said the legate.
Alexander snapped to attention.
‘Raise all my centurions, Primus pilus, I order you. Use all your noble training and pitch our Standard on that bridge. Defend the Standard and defend Rome. There must be no retreat, Primus pilus.’ Thoughts of retreating from the chosen place of their great council caused a cold fear to ripple through the legate’s body, thoughts of his tongue failing to find words of explanation in the Senate in Rome bit into his brain. A droplet of fear, perhaps dread, leaked from his balding head. Thoughts of political ruin caused panic to swell in his gut and manifest itself in a voice of hysteria. ‘Alexander! There must be no surrender! There are no orders to surrender!
‘Consider it done,’ swore Alexander, strapping his legate into armour of gold. ‘I will take my leave, oh noble legate.’
‘Wait!’ cried the elderly commander. The phobia of failure in the eyes of Rome raged in the legate’s mind. ‘Give my beeswax imprint to our messenger. The message in the writing tells the Legate of the Sixth to ride north with all haste to help repel the Caledonian invasion. You must send our best rider south to valley of the lakes. The Sixth Legion is resting by the lakeside on the way to the great council. They must relieve us if we are to hold Luguvalium but they must also send riders south to those who march to the council. The word of invasion must be passed. You must impress upon our messenger that we stand until the Sixth arrives. Each late minute means a Roman death.’
Nodding in agreement, Alexander pocketed the beeswax, clenched his fist across his heart in salute, and retired to his duties.
The cornua sounded. First one, and then a symphony of music followed as Roman trumpets sounded action stations and Alexander’s cohorts mustered to the call.
Duncan heard the sound of a faint bugle and swore. The crucial element of surprise lost at the final bridge! ‘We are discovered, my clansmen,’ shouted the rugged Pict. ‘I shall lead you over the bridge whilst many of our number practice subterfuge. Take strength from your sword; wield well your axes of desire. Forward! Let us take this battle forward. Attack, I say. Attack!’
A multitude of Picts rose up as one and scurried towards the EdenBridge with Duncan’s tall figure leading the way.
Rome responded with Alexander’s second cohort soon in armour.
A horse was found; Julius was chosen; Alexander spoke.
‘Ride to the land of the great lakes, south of the settlement known as Voreda.’ Alexander handed over the beeswax impression. ‘Deliver this. Ride towards the great mountains of Britannia that rise towards the grey clouds. Here you will find the lake the Britons call Ullswater.’
Julius pocketed the beeswax. He carried only a spear for protection as he leapt upon his horse: it was a beautiful white charger. With neither stirrup nor saddle, he tugged masterfully on his stallion’s mane as he listened to Alexander’s final instructions.
‘No man rides faster than you, Julius. No man this day carries any greater obligation than you. You must ride as freely as the wind and use each ascent as an eagle soars in the sky. Feed not your steed nor fill your hungered belly. When climbing hills command your charger well and think not of tomorrow’s gallop, for there may be no tomorrow for us. Do this, I command you, Julius.’
Sticking out his chest, shaking his spear with arrogant pride, Julius hollered, ‘Better to die for Rome than surrender to a Pict! I ride for the Ninth, Alexander. I shall ride to Rome if needs be. I give you my word; I give you my honour, Alexander.’
Alexander saluted in final tribute as a single arrow dived from the sky and drilled into soil a mere yard from where they spoke. Thin shadows flattened across the earth as more arrows filled the skies and plummeted downwards in search of the unwary.
‘This day I plant our Standard high, Julius,’ revealed Alexander, ignoring the attack from above. ‘This day we do not move. This day is our day. Fly like a bird south to the valley of the great lakes, some twenty leagues and five or more. Deliver the beeswax message but tell the men of the Sixth that our Standard is in danger. Bring back the Sixth and you will bring us back our lives. Go, Julius… Without you… We are doomed.’
The horse pranced and bucked in anticipation as Julius flaunted his spear defiantly in the air. Turning, Julius galloped south through the streets of Luguvalium as the sound of armour and leather, and swords and shields, rattled in his ear.
Alexander watched his main chance disappear up the incline towards Luguvalium’s market place before switching his mind to the coming battle. Running to a bonfire in the middle of their camp, he quickly lit a taper and inserted the flame into the heart of the wooden edifice. He stood back and watched the smoke drift into the sky, growing in strength, billowing in confusion, signalling to men at a fort by the Caldew that they were under attack. It was a plea for help. Then the fire took hold, crackling and sizzling in its birth, in its infancy.
‘Hurry!’ instructed Alexander. ‘Mars is with us. Gather your shields. Standard Bearers to the front.’
Anxious legionaries clambered from their tents, gladius and pilum: iron and ebony, clattering noisily in confusion as the might of the Ninth Legion listened to orders trumpeting across their bustling campsite.
In nearby fields, a deer ran and a fox scuttled to its lair. An oystercatcher dipped into the reeds and buried itself in a nest. The old grey river lapped at its banks as its course meandered slowly to the Solway Firth.
As Duncan’s first foot made the wooden bridge across the river, Alexander’s foremost cohort barred their way. Shields in font of their chests and pilum pointed forward, their manoeuvre resembled a porcupine under attack, for under attack they were. Clerks and surveyors ran to warn the townsfolk of Luguvalium amid an avalanche of arrows falling from the heavens. Kneeling on high ground on the north bank of the Eden, archers fired high into the air searching out their quarry in the enemy’s campsite. A clerk fell, skewered from behind. A musician felt the flint drill through his neck, as his throat was rendered useless by an arrow from the sky. The Ninth Legion rushed into position bolstering their porcupine tactic by lining up behind their defences with majestic strength. Yet men continued to fall, pierced by the arrows of Caledonia.
Alexander ignored the first brief encounter on the bridge. The centurion, leader of men, bravest of the brave, strode amongst his legionaries. Oblivious to the enemy, turning his back against the Picts, his contempt for the aggressor was apparent to his cohorts before him. He mounted a pile of shields lying near the EdenBridge and stood head and shoulders above his noble legion.
‘Men of the Ninth,’ and courage and leadership were stamped in his voice and the manner of his standing, ‘Plant your Standards well for there are no orders for retreat. Hear me! No surrender, men of the Ninth.’
Turning to face his enemy on yonder banks of Stanwix, Alexander shook his vine wood staff and boomed scorn and terror across the broad divide. ‘Their numbers will never exceed the power of Mars. This day we stand with honour for the glory of Rome.’
Alexander, Optio Ad Spem, seized the Legion’s Standard in his mighty fist and sank it heavily into the centre of the EdenBridge. He shouted aloud, ‘Here we stand! Here we fight! For the glory of the Ninth!’
Lungs filled with air, chests bulged, and weapons of destruction rattled and shivered in the morning sun. Battle cries went up: a throaty cheer from inspired defenders, and a lusty roar from hungry invaders.
A rabble of Pict charged across the broad bridge throwing axes and spears high into a wall of Roman shields. Screams of agony penetrated the air as a handful of legionaries fell under an array of cutting blades. More centuries took their place as yard by yard the Ninth Legion strengthened their defences and inched their way to the centre of the EdenBridge. Some held shields high above their heads to prevent injury from falling arrows while others carried shields to their front to deny thrusting blades. Their Standard dominated the structure as the legion gathered round their charge. Alexander knew that the Standard was the rallying point. No legion had ever lost its Standard outright. If taken, a legion would fight for years to regain its Standard. To the Standard they rallied, a symbol of attrition, a noble emblem of universal power.
In the hours that followed, blades cut, blood ran red, and the Ninth’s Standard stood bloodstained but proud.
Hand to hand fighting endured with the sheer weight of numbers forcing a deluge of warring men into the centre of the mighty bridge. The biggest bridge in the north, crossing the widest river in Luguvalium, creaked and shook with the weight of fighting men. Screaming, brawling warriors battled for control of the wooden structure as three thousand Picts found shallow water two miles upstream near the confluence of the Petteril. They waded through waist high water, crossed the mainstream, and turned to strike at Alexander’s campsite from the rear.
Julius was galloping towards Voreda, tugging his stallion’s mare, riding for all he was worth. He wouldn’t let them down. He would return, triumphant, to save his friends from slaughter. Julius would be there for his colleagues, once he’d gathered reinforcements.
At the crest of a hill to the south of Voreda, Ullswater finally came into view, bathing in an unexpected spell of sunshine. The towering fells of the land of the lakes sprouted above the grey-blue tranquil waters of Ullswater. With renewed vigour in his heart, Julius mastered his stallion towards the Sixth’s camp.
Suddenly, there was a narrow stream and then the branch of a tree appeared without warning, but Julius’s eyes were focused on the lake below. At the last second, he ducked, yet the weeping bough caught Julius on the side of the head and he reared on the stallion. Back on its hind legs, the stallion unfastened Julius and he fell to the ground. As Julius plunged to the earth, the beeswax message slipped from his robe…
Duncan the Bold hacked ferociously, sword in one hand and battleaxe in the other. Fearless in leadership, he discarded the thrusting, stabbing javelins before him and battered his way into a wall of Roman shields. He forced the defenders backwards on their heels with a swish of his tartan and a slice of his blade. Skewers of doom clouded the light as arrow and slingshot rained down on the Ninth Legion. Screams and cries of desperation ripped apart the morning as a mob of Picts pushed forward from the north while the Ninth defended with a colossal wall of imposing shields. As the second cohort took primary position in the defensive strategy, more cohorts rushed to the fray. The centurions rapidly deployed their men amid the trumpet calls and flashing blades of battle.
Alexander fingered the handle of his weapon, its killing edge encased within a leather sheath, withdrew his gladius and sought out a giant of a man to whom the Picts were rallying. The centurion cut down one attacker, trampled over the tartan of another, and slashed viciously at an approaching tribesman.
‘Forward! Forward!’ screamed Duncan, taking a spear in his hand. ‘Luguvalium will be ours. Forward!’ His spear thrust; its iron point to kill.
‘Hold fast,’ ordered Alexander, in control. ‘More cohorts to the Standard! Shields on high! Fortuna has granted our respite. Hold fast.’
EdenBridge was littered with wounded, dead, fighting, and dying men. From the banks of Stanwix thousands queued to battle on the bridge, and in Alexander’s eyes, there could be no retreat to the safety of the narrow streets and meandering lanes of Luguvalium. The bridge had to be held. Indeed, there could be no retreat since there were no reserves to call upon; there could be no retreat since there were no orders to retreat.
The two men locked their eyes in mortal combat as Duncan slashed his way into a wall of Roman shields. Alexander attacked the giant Pict, flaying his pilum in one hand while his gladius searched for the enemy’s chest. As Duncan’s multitude pressed forward, Alexander felt his pilum slip away. He felt Duncan’s blade cut deep into his arm. Blood spilled from the centurion’s body. Alexander fell backwards into a row of leather shields, dropping his gladius, and gesticulating in majestic defence with his vine wood staff: his symbol of authority. The staff swished through the air cutting the invader deep in his face as Alexander tried to roll beneath his second cohort’s shields.
A craggy face, seethed in blood, scarred, looked down into Alexander’s deep brown eyes. Duncan yelled in victory as he buried his sword in Alexander’s stomach. Duncan twisted his blade, rupturing the belly before continuing onward to hack at the second cohort’s defences.
Duncan trampled boldly across Alexander’s body. Seconds later, a quartet of revenging javelins were thrust out from a wall of shields and embedded deep in Duncan’s chest. Heaving and pushing, their pilums stabbing and thrusting, Alexander’s comrades took revenge on the Caledonian leader as Roman spears propelled the heathen’s body backwards into a multitude of screaming Picts. A barbed curl at the end of a pilum drove deep into the heathen’s chest. The pilum broke at its wooden neck and a barbed iron point remained embedded in the chest as its shaft broke and trailed the ground. Duncan’s blood dripped from the barbed curl and life oozed from his chest. Duncan died on that bridge; his body cut to ribbons.
Alexander rolled from the woodwork, threw out his good arm in an attempt to grasp a stanchion, but fell with a final groan towards the river. In the final micro-seconds of his valiant life, Alexander mustered all his remaining strength and thundered, ‘No surrender.’ It was his final order.
With a splash, droplets of water raced into the air and the centurion sank towards unknown depths. With a gentle, unsoundly thud, he hit the bottom of the riverbed. His body cavorted, twisted, turned, and wrestled with the gently flowing reeds of the Eden as waters turned red with his fluid and the Tablet of Masada, the rock of Judea, sought escape from his bloodstained robe. Alexander’s mind raced back to the banks of the Euphrates and a place in a desert where there was only peace and quiet and solitude. His mind raced back to Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights and Damascus. His mind raced back in time, curving and spinning in a whirlpool of anguish. There was blackness in the water, a chasm in his mind, and an abyss of unknown depth. Then there was nothing.
Minutes later, defiant to the last, Alexander’s body floated to the surface in the finality of his death.
His mystical rock: the Tablet of Masada: his legacy, drowned without trace in the murky waters of the Eden. The rock buried itself in the muddy sands of the River Eden. The legacy of the Ninth rested in the sands of time, as all around fought Luguvalium for the glory of the Ninth.
Charging, warring Picts made Duncan’s battle-plan succeed as all hell broke out in Luguvalium. Having crossed the Eden, the Caledonian Picts reaped havoc on the five thousand men of the Ninth Legion. From all four asides, the Ninth found themselves under attack, falling back to the Standard and defending their honour as best they could.
Slingshots of slaughter, burning arrows of ruination, and the cold clash of steel, mingled with screams of injured, dying warriors as Luguvalium gave way to hordes of incorrigible Picts. Flames grew with a lick and then a lash and then took hold, burning and destroying everything in its path.
Hours later, in burning, sobbing, Luguvalium, the Standard of the Ninth was lost forever to the men of Caledonia. The Standard was seized from the bridge, never to be seen again. Yet by midday, Caledonia’s marauding Picts were halved in number, held back from final victory by the disciplined, well-trained remnants of Alexander’s bloodied second cohort, and a handful of men from the Caldew fort who had responded to a distress signal in the sky.
A cornua sounded in the distance…
The sound of cornua grew in the ear…
The sound of cornua grew in the ear and was accompanied by the thunder of horses’ hooves…
Julius led the way, arrogantly shaking his spear, bleeding from the head, roaring revenge, galloping through the streets with the splendour of the Sixth Legion behind him. Yet his horse was broken, spent in its endeavour, and exhausted by the long gallop from Ullswater. The horse made the Market Square and promptly collapsed, stone dead.
Julius pulled himself from underneath his valiant steed as the Sixth Legion jogged into position. Limping from his fall, Julius took a shield from a dead centurion and joined the men who had journeyed from Ullswater.
A cornua sounded again. The Sixth Legion formed its battle lines.
The auxiliary infantry dominated the ground at the front of the legion. Each man stood a yard apart from his colleagues, but behind the auxiliaries, the Sixth Legion formed a wall of shields and gradually closed tightly together. Closer and closer they jostled until there was no daylight between their shields and no break in the line of shields. Eventually, they formed a shell of leather shields that was totally protected from an attack from either front or rear. They were a tortoise shell standing in waiting.
The cornua sounded and the legion stood in silence. Five thousand men heaved and panted in exertion from their journey, stood and inhaled the acrid air of Luguvalium, and stood in ordered readiness as they allowed the thumping of their hearts to subside.
The cornua sounded and the legion set off at a slow march from the Market Square. As the legion marched towards the EdenBridge, the heat of the flames licked their shields, threatened their tunics, and warmed their faces. They saw the narrow lanes of Luguvalium on fire as they marched into a cauldron of burning hate.
The men of the Sixth Legion saw blood red fluid running down muddy gutters, yet still they held their pace at a slow march. They saw the injured, yet still they held their line and made no fissure in their shields. They could smell burning timbers and see burning flesh, yet still they made no move to help their fallen comrades. They heard the screams of fighting men and the cold clash of steel in a valley below, yet still they marched in slowness down the bank.
The cornua sounded and their march became a jog. Their metal gleamed, their Standard shone, their leather rubbed, and dancing robes swished with the speed of moving men. The cornua sounded and their march became a run. The cornua sounded and their run became a charge. Their run was held at line abreast and still there was no fracture in their wall of leather shields. The rumble of the half boot pounding on the ground drove fear into the heart of Caledonia. The mud splattered and the thunder of five thousand charging men echoed in the luscious green valley of the Eden. The cornua sounded again and the tightness of their shields fractured slightly and allowed a wall of pilum to spearhead the attack. Suddenly, they were terrifying and formidable, and magnificent in their control. Awesome, they were a mass of charging men with shields and steel thrusting into battle. The tortoise shell exploded, erupted, turned into a raging porcupine as the Sixth Legion stormed towards the bridge.
The cornua sounded and the men of the Ninth reacted to the signal in the music. The Ninth split, abandoned the ground and ran to east and west. The Ninth ducked, dived for cover, opened up a gap, and threw the sucker punch. The porcupine of the Sixth Legion stormed into the space in a masterpiece of Roman tactics. One minute the Caledonian warriors were fighting a weakened, tired Ninth; the next they were looking into a wall of colossal shields and row upon row of thrusting pilum.
The dying Ninth closed behind the advancing Sixth.
With leather shields and sharpened sword, the Sixth pushed their aggressor back to the riverbank. A throat was cut and a chest was staved and a limb was sliced to the ground. There was a roar of battle, a smell of fear, and a sobbing cry of a dying man embracing the green valley of the Eden. To the west, in the lands of the Petteril and to the east, in the lands of the Caldew, the Caledonian threat was dispatched with military precision.
Leaderless, dumbfounded by the brave, illogical courage of such defenders, Caledonia fled in retreat to the safety of her heather-clad moors.
By evening time, a myriad of glowing flames lit up the heavens, scarlet tongues of fire acted as a beacon in the Borderlands; a flag to mark the fiercest battle in Britannia’s Roman history.
The fires, by the rivers, in Luguvalium, were doused. The Sixth Legion held fast the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire.
When the Picts had gone and the dying had been gathered, Julius and the few remnants of an inspired Ninth Legion stood on that bridge. They had fought for their Standard on that bridge. They had died on that bridge that day.
The Eden ran red with the blood of man.
Within a year, Hadrian arrived in the Borderlands and sent an army across the Eden to occupy high ground at Stanwix. A fort named ‘Petriana’ was built on nine acres of land. From that day on Stanwix grew in prosperity and splendour. In the same year, work commenced on the great wall that the Romans had planned. A thousand strong cavalry regiment moved into the fort of Petriana and policed Hadrian’s Wall and the rugged, unforgiving lands of the border.
But not that day in burning, violent, sorrowful Luguvalium! Not that day when the Standard was lost. No! Not that day. Thousands died that day. But no more the Ninth… Lost in the rivers of time…
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