The elephant stirred fitfully, one thick leg twitching as the beast’s side heaved
with each labored breath, its precious lifeblood spreading slowly across the churned
earth. A mournful trumpeting rose above the feeble cries of several thousand injured
and dying soldiers littering the blood-soaked battlefield.
Tribune Quintus Maximus sat on the slope of a gently rising hill surrounded by a
dozen sullen legionaries. He watched the beast with cold eyes; his urge to curse
and spit betrayed by a dry mouth and failed words. Disgusted, he turned from the
carnage to examine his discolored shield arm. Flexing the elbow, he grunted as bone
popped. The arm was useless, bruised and battered from endless hours clutching his
scutum--his shield--while deflecting powerful spear thrusts during the day long battle.
A battle lost under the very walls of Rome.
Suppressing the pain, he directed his ire toward the men around him. They stared
blankly at the summer grass, dwelling on the shame of defeat, the bitter realization
they had failed the very citizens they had vowed to protect.
Maximus scowled when the inevitable wailing rose from behind the mighty walls. Word
of the catastrophe spread quickly, from statesman to plebeian, merchant to slave,
its staggering impact shocking and stark.
An older man reached over and jostled his foot. Maximus recognized the soldier as
Gaius Livinius, a veteran centurion.
“Water?” Livinius asked through parched and swollen lips. He wiped sweat from his
dirt-encrusted face, the action exposing bands of sun-darkened flesh.
Quintus Maximus shook his head, his eyes darting to the handful of flies attracted
to a bloody bandage cinched around the centurion’s leg. He replied in anger, though
his voice came cracked and raspy. “Dead. All dead. How?”
Livinius stared at the younger man, and his look hardened. He had no love for a man
whose rank rested solely on the basis of senatorial status. “Such arrogance, tribune.
Not so long ago the Gauls swarmed like locusts from the north, laying waste to Rome
and Roman land. Why is it beyond reason another could not do the same?”
Quintus stirred angrily and reached for his gladius, forgetting it lay on a stack
of surrendered arms. His hand drifted slowly from the empty scabbard.“That is treasonous
talk, Livinius,” he rasped.
The Fall of Rome Excerpt
As expected, Bruce tells a captivating story with an alternate history of ancient
Rome. It is one of the high points in Abandoned Towers #2. The characters are very
well drawn, very Roman, and very distinct in their viewpoints of the battle they've
just finished. ...this one details a fascinating 'what if?' scenario that will make
any student of history smile and think, "Yeah, that would've been cool."