“Three dead gods” by By Shimun Vrochek

Translated by Aimee Roebuck-Johnson and Michael (Misha) Shengaout

I am 43 years-old. I was born 27 years ago and yet, 17 centuries have passed since the day of my death.

“A-a-a!!!”

Memories of my childhood are flashing through my mind. I hear a howling mob. I see bare hands ripping stones from the pavement, the streets of Skyros, hear cursing, running, screaming… My uncle Flavius – huge, unshaven and disheveled – raises a log over his head with a muffled growl. “Whores!” he yells. Clear and simple. Even an eight-year-old like me can understand him. The whores are in the palace. My uncle and his friends are going to take the palace. Then everyone will be happy, even myself, Titus, although I’m too young for stones – or whores, for that matter.

Now, with forty years of living under my belt, I, Senior Centurion [1] Titus Voltumium, know that my uncle had it right: a leader always finds simple names for the most complicated ideas. What did the mob care about stuff like “personal liberty”, “rights and rule”, or “legitimacy”? Complex becomes simple when a leader speaks: The Optimates[2] are dirty pigs, the Tribune[3] is an asshole, the Patricians are whores. Even I got it, and I was only eight.

The others got it even better.

“A-a-a!!!” The screaming mob is running like a foul torrent of dirty spring water, carrying trash and sticks. My eight-year-old self, the one whom young Legionnaires would later call “Asshole Centurion”, is running with them.

When the wall of Legionnaires’ shields blocks our chaotic torrent, I snatch a rock from the ground and throw it at them with all my might. Damn, it bounced off! “Nice work, kid!” someone grins at me before picking up a rock of his own. Our mob bombards their shields with cobblestones and anything else we can lay our hands on. The Legionnaires stand in a tortoise formation[4]. Now, with the benefit of my thirty years as a Centurion, I realize that their “tortoise” is loose and crippled. Even so, their shields protect them and minimize the damage from the hail of cobblestones. One of our rocks manages to hit an unfortunate Legionnaire, and he cries out in pain. His Centurion yells at the top of his lungs, “Hold the formation, you apes!”

Then the line of shields comes alive and slowly starts advancing towards us. It’s a terrifying sight. The Legion’s advance is always terrifying. Sometimes when I want to test the readiness of Centurias[5] in a Cohort[6], I stand in front of the unit and order the Junior Centurion to advance towards me. In formation, in silence, no javelins. And then a chill runs down my spine and my teeth clench as if I’m back on the streets of Skyros. As if my eight-year-old self watches again the glistening bronze snake of the Legion swallowing up my street, block by block. That’s when my 43 year-old Centurion-self usually shouts, “Left flank, pull up! Move your feet! Fall in step, you bastards!” But afterwards, when I take off my helmet, my fingers can still feel the cold sweat on its lining.

“A-a-a?!?” The mob of my childhood memories shows hesitation. They were promised whores, but now something different is happening. Instead of their reward–lying down, and shamelessly spreading bare legs–they see a massive bronze snake, the snake of the Legion, swallowing up the street. In my mind’s eye it is the evening, around sunset, because I remember torches. After all, what kind of riot would it be without the quick fire dancing upon the torches? I remember the bronze snake of the Legion reflecting the flames upon its terrifying scales…

Visions overlap and both of my selves—my younger, dark-haired self then and my older, half-gray self now—observe the terrible beauty of the Legion’s advancing ranks. Ever since that day my heart skips a beat at this sight… Even when I stand in front of my Centuria, ordering my Junior Centurion “Forward march!”

In formation, in silence, no javelins.

Uncle Flavius from my childhood memories is also shaken at first, but he is smarter than the mob (so is an eight-year-old kid for that matter!) and he is the leader. He is a simple potter; he can’t turn water into wine like the God of the Christians, but he can do something else. He can turn the complex into something simple.

I hear him shouting, “Stupid cops!”

Uncle Flavius is the god of the mob.

Thirty five years have passed but, remembering that day, I can close my eyes and still see how the bronze snake of the Legion is pressing its thick head against the riotous torrent of our mob. I can still see how everything — doors, wooden boards, people’s shoulders—is put to use now that Uncle Flavius has turned the complex into something simple. I can still hear in my mind the sound of crumpling bodies and cracking ribs as if I were still there. The Legion is pushing us; we are pushing back; no one wants to retreat. A bronze snake of the Legion against a dark, raging bull of the mob.

Some say that when a python hunts, it first stuns its victim with a blow to the head.

In my mind’s eye I can still see everything. I am watching from the second-story balcony of a nearby house, where some kind soul has pushed me out of harm’s way. There is a solid mass of people below me, packed as tight as cobblestones in the pavement. It feels as if I could jump down I’d be able to walk that pavement, recognizing everyone: here is Quintus missing half the teeth in his lopsided mouth, here is our red-headed neighbor Scevola… Uncle Flavius is up front, all sinew and bone, pressing his shoulder against a door ripped out of somewhere with the wood still hanging from its bronze hinges. He’s pushing as if all the happiness in the world is behind that door and someone isn’t letting him in to get it. But my uncle is strong; he’ll force his way through.

“A-a-a!!!”

Then I see the Legionnaires in the back send their javelins flying…

He was always strong, my uncle. Even when the hailstorm of javelins brought him down, he didn’t die right away. The Centurion had to thrust the sword into him twice and still wait out the throes of the dying man. The Centurion was stocky, with a red face. From my eight-year-old point of view, he seemed really old, though he was probably younger than I am now…

And that is how the god of the mob died…

 

* * *

 

…“I want to be a soldier”.

”Your face is white, boy. The Great Caesar himself said, ‘If you want to see what someone’s made of, get him startled and watch him. If his face turns red, he’s brave. If he goes pale, you know he’s afraid.’ You’re a coward and we don’t need cowards over here. Get the hell out of here, boy!”

The Tribune drops his words one by one, exuding pride and borrowed wisdom he clearly hasn’t digested yet. He is young, about seven years older than the thirteen-year-old me, and he has something to be proud of. He’s read Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Gallic War”, he remembers Cicero and probably can quote Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things”. My education is much simpler: the riot, Uncle Flavius and the short sword between his ribs, years of drifting and loneliness, pain and starvation. But I know something that this conceited Tribune of the 17th Legion’s second cohort doesn’t.

I know that the complex can be made simple. So I walk away.

…“I want to be a soldier”.

The Centurion’s manner is wolf-like, predatory. It is as if he’s been a wolf all along and has only recently come out of the forest, growing human skin with a strong neck and gray hair on the top of his round head with its thick forehead. He checks me out, his eyes thoughtful and pensive.

“Fool,” he says. His broad palm pushes me down almost gently on the back of my head and I fall. “You are young and stupid.”

“And you are an asshole!” I shout after him. “Am I brave enough to say it?”

The Centurion turns around with a sardonic smile and looks at me, sitting in the dust, “Certainly dumb enough to shout as loud as you just did.”

I hate his grin as much as I hated the bronze snake which swallowed up the street of my hometown.

“Get up, you maggot! Go to Quintus in the fifth tent. Get five lashes and a blanket. Tell him those are my orders. Then go to the cook and wash dishes. Dismissed. Get out of my sight…”

Somehow I feel that, just like Uncle Flavius, he knows how to take the complex and turn it into something simple.

“Bar-rah[7]!!!”

Memories of my youth are flashing through my mind. I hear howling Centurions. In my mind’s eye I see us running, trying to keep formation. We are trying to sound like a charging elephant, but instead our shouts sound more like the whimpering of a frightened calf. I see the shadowy figure of the Centurion Furius in front of us. It’s hard to make out the actual expression on his face from this distance, but I’m sure—we’re all sure — that the Centurion Furius Lupus, Furius the Wolf, is grinning. I think he knows that we all hate him, even though he can’t see the looks in our eyes…

“Hold formation!” Furius’ voice drowns our howling. “Left flank, pull up!”

“A-a-a!!!”

“Shit,” mutters the runner in front of me as he stumbles and drops his wooden sword. He lurches a few steps and then falls forward, his arms flailing. His shoulder slams into the knee of the runner in front of him and they both fall, prompting a torrent of profanity. I am wearing a full armor, with a shield in one hand and massive wooden sword in the other, there is no way to hurdle this squirming pile of bodies with all this gear. I shout, “Follow my lead!” I step on their flailing forms and onto the ground beyond and keep on running.

“You shit!” I hear a voice from the ground behind me. “You’re shit…and you… and you!” Clearly some have followed in my footsteps.

That night Furius calls me over. Everyone has gone to their tents and I hear someone shouting on the other side of the camp. This Wolf-Centurion takes off his helmet and I can see his short gray hair and deep-set eyes. He is sitting and smiling without saying a word. I don’t say a word either, except I’m not about to smile. I hate him.

“Fool,” says Lupus out of nowhere. “You did the right thing today by keeping formation. If we’d been in a real battle, you would’ve saved a lot of lives. Even so, they’re going to beat the shit out of you tonight and I’m not going to interfere. And another thing: you’ll never be a Centurion. Dismissed. Get out of my sight!”

“I will be a Centurion,” I whisper that night in bed through my swollen lips and bleeding cheeks. Four guys attacked me that evening; three of them had followed my lead earlier that day. And none of them had been among those on the ground.

“I will be a Senior Centurion.” It took me only twelve years…

Memories of my youth are flashing through my mind. I remember our training. I see the Centurion pacing back and forth in front of the formation, telling us: “When you’re just a mob you can be destroyed pretty easily. But it’s a lot harder to break you when you are in formation. Titus, Comus, come here! Defend yourselves!”

The very next moment a blow to my head sends me flying off my feet. There’s a dull ringing in my ears, the light in my eyes dims.

“On your feet!” the Centurion shouts. I don’t think twice — my training kicks in and I get up… No, actually, I shoot up off the ground. Somehow I catch the sight of Comus through the fog in my brain. He looks dazed and I bet that I look the same.

“That was simple,” says Furius Lupus, rubbing his calloused fist. “First of all, I attacked when they weren’t expecting it. Second, each one was acting completely on his own. Again!”

This time I manage to raise my shield and move closer to Comus. This time the Centurion’s fist slams into the shield – I still teeter backward a bit from the blow. Then I shout, “Follow my lead!” I push forward with my shoulder pressed against my shield. Comus does the same. In one fell swoop, Lupus is knocked to the ground. I shout, “Follow my lead!” I aim my foot right at his side. How I hate him at that moment!

“I WILL be a Centurion!”

Terrible pain pierces the knee of the leg I’m standing on. It’s as if boiling water has been splashed on it from the inside. I fall down.

“If the enemy thinks that something is simple, make it complicated for him,” Furius says, standing over me as I clutch my burning knee. “More than likely, next time he’ll think twice before throwing a punch.”

I growl and clench my teeth as my eyes fill with tears. “I hate you, you son-of-a-bitch!”

I wheeze. “I will kill you one day!”

Twenty-eight years have passed since then, but I still remember how easy it was to hate Senior Centurion Furius Lupus, Furius the Wolf. And how much harder it became when the slander of the young Tribune–yes, that very Tribune who was seven years older than me–had him court-martialed and executed.

…“By the order of Senior Centurion Quintus Gars!”

I walk into the tent past two guards with javelins. The prisoner lifts his eyes and grins, which makes him look even more like a wolf. “I really hate him,” I start thinking as I always have, only to discover that, to my surprise, the hate is gone, having left behind only the hollow words I have been so used to repeating.

“Well, well,” Furius-Lupus says casually, as if all he’s done while being under arrest was expect me to show up. “Titus, you always look for trouble.”

“I’ve brought you a sword,” I say as I put it down in front of him. Even with its sheath, this blade is lighter than our standard wooden training sword.

“And what exactly am I supposed to do with that?” says Furius with a smile. “You think I should fall on my own sword as if I am a dishonored commander trying to save his honor?”

“That’s what Senior Centurion Gars thinks. He’s the one who sent me.” I didn’t say that my superior did so upon my request.

Furius looks me straight in the eye and says, “That’s not what old man Gars thinks. This is what the Tribune of the Second Cohort thinks.”

“But…” I started to argue.

He interrupts me, “The Tribune thinks he’s won this one. Maybe he has, but I’m not going to go down so easily. If I were to fall on my sword now, it would be giving up without a fight. No way — I’ll have a word or two to say about our gallant Tribune when I have my day in court. And I’m sure he won’t like what he hears.”

“I am glad that you came to see me, Titus, even though it was a dumb thing to do,” the Centurion says. “Attention!” I straighten up. “Tell Quintus Gars that I ordered you to take the sword back to him. Tell him to give it back to the Tribune so he can fall on it himself if he wants to! Tell him those were my orders. Then go back to your tent and tomorrow I want you to march double distance, full gear. And one more thing: you’re going to be a good Centurion. A Senior Centurion. That’s all. Now get out of my sight!”

And that is how the god of soldiers died.

Whatever is simple for your enemy must be made complex.

 

* * *

 

…It’s hard to be an old man in a young man’s body, when the reflection in the mirror isn’t the hardened old face you are so used to, with the familiar creases and wrinkles at the corners of your mouth. Not that I have seen my face in the mirror that often. Usually I have seen its reflection in a lake or a river, in a puddle of water, a cattle trough or even in my lentil soup. For me, the mirror is nothing short of a marvel. I had no idea that bronze could be polished like that…

Well, it probably isn’t bronze. Could it be silver? I have seen quicksilver once–those shiny little balls of mercury you can’t help but roll in the palm of your hand, enjoying the reflection of the light. Aha! The reflection! I got it! This mirror must be frozen mercury. Good job, Senior Centurion Titus Volutumium, your gray head can still come up with something!

But that’s not important.

The important thing is that the face in the mirror is not mine, not mine at all. It is not even Roman or Greek. Could it be Gallic[8]? Goth? Thracian[9]? Gepid[10]? Heruli[11]? But now that I think about it, Heruli usually have red hair.

The face in the mirror has a soft oval shape, light chestnut hair, a small jaw instead of the heavy one I used to have, and ears that stick out. Those ears clearly aren’t used to a helmet. And no scars– no scars at all! The skin is white and tender. And one more thing–the guy in the mirror looks young, really young. I didn’t look that young even when I was fifteen!

“Dima!” A voice calls out from behind the closed door. It’s a soft, woman’s voice, and I picture a pretty girl with wide hips and red hair…. Oh, those were the days!

“Dima,” now the voice sounds uncertain. “Are you okay?”

The face in the mirror answers, “Yeah. I’ll be out in a minute.”

The words aren’t Latin or Thracian, not even Germanic. Maybe a little bit like Germanic. Do they speak Goth? Wait a minute, since when do I speak Goth or even understand it?

“Don’t be so upset,” her voice is trying to console me. Yep, she is definitely a redhead–I can almost feel it. I bet she’s beautiful–redheads always are. She continues, “You don’t get to go to the astral plane every day, you know. Maybe some solar flare got in the way.”

What’s she talking about? Since when does the sun flare?

Suddenly I remember – her name is Nadya and she is beautiful indeed. My loincloth suddenly gets too tight–yes, I know Nadya, I know her well…

Except it’s not me – it’s the kid in the mirror who knows her. And he is really not that young, about twenty four, born in August. His parents… my parents? Their names are Alexandra Pavlovna and Valery Stepanovich. His last name … clan name…my name… The Legion’s advance is always terrifying…

“Dima, why’d you get quiet all of a sudden?”

“Yes,” I reply, “Yes.”

My father is Mark and my mother is Lucillia…. People have been calling me Titus Voltumium for twenty years… Senior, damn it, Centurion! Turn the complex into something simple…

“Dima!”

…Nadya says that after the spiritualistic séance something in my eyes changed. It’s possible. The main difference between a man and a boy is in the way he looks at the woman. She also says she’s glad that I gave up mysticism. She’s heard that a dead man’s spirit can possess the body of the one who calls it up.

“Nonsense,” I tell her. “That’s all nonsense.” “Nonsense” agrees my sweet red fox. But then the look in her eyes becomes tense and distant, as if she is looking for something that she hopes never to find. My heart is sinking, because if she ever finds out… I can’t live without her now.

I remember how it was then, at first, when I opened the bathroom door, just walked over and embraced her, blood rushing to my head… Silly young kid!

“Dima?” Her lips slightly parted in a blissful surprise and she melted in my embrace, pressing her body even closer to mine, “Have you hit your head or something?”

“I surely did,” I said. “The first time I saw you. And I’ve been walking around with a concussion ever since.”

“Do you mean it?” The fire in her eyes was melting my heart. “I knew it. As cold as you always seem to be, I sometimes think I see that kind of look in your eyes…”

Dima, you’re an idiot, a young and stupid one. Nadya’s right: when you were a kid you probably hit your head on every rock you saw. How could you take something so simple and make it into something this complex? You’re your own worst enemy, boy…

It’s hard to be an old man, and I’m not talking about old wounds or old bones aching when the weather changes. That is, I don’t feel old. I feel more like a calf looking at a new gate. At first everything I saw around me had the feel of something miraculous, like some surprising novelty strangely mixed with a deep, primordial familiarity. To be more specific, Titus Voltumium was the one who found things strange and novel. Dima was just bored, indifferent to the sight of moving horseless carts, flying iron birds or the cascading waterfall of evening street lights with no torch in sight! And then I noticed that the Senior Centurion inside Dima was starting to yawn, too. All these marvels were exhilarating and boring at the same time. Boring exhilaration.

Sometimes I have a hard time keeping Dima’s and my Centurion memories straight. One set of memories becomes mixed up with another’s… a fight in high school #2 with swords and in formation… the wise old Centurion Ivan Mikhailych…

Old age is not about gray hair or feeling tired. My hair is nowhere near gray and my long years of service have taught me to be tired only after returning to the barracks at night. Old age is about habit, about the things you’re used to. The things I’m used to… I’m used to being a Senior Centurion. I’m used to getting up before dawn and going to bed after midnight. I’m used to feeling the cold through the thin Legion blanket when I’m trying to sleep. I’m used to simple stew from Legion cauldrons. I’m used to saluting my superiors and being saluted. I’m used to marching in formation, feeling the weight of my helmet rubbing the back of my head and my temples. By the gods, I even dream about that stupid helmet!

Old age is when you start to value habit over comfort.

Even when I’m holding Nadya’s warm, familiar body (my beloved red-haired fox with her sly ways and upturned nose), it takes me awhile to fall asleep. Even though I’m lying under a down blanket in a warm house, I need only drift off to sleep to see the bronze snake stretching its coils on the streets of Skyros, arms holding torches, javelins flying. Turning the complex into something simple. And then sometimes I see the Legion camping in the cold of the gray early morning. The guards are freezing in their short cloaks, frost is on the tree branches, bare after autumn has stolen their leaves. I see my breath steaming out when I exhale. I’m walking along a narrow path swaddled in my wool cloak. My head is bare and the wind is rushing through my hair. I’m thirteen-years-old again. I am about to join the Legion. That’s that.

It’s hard to live when you are not used changing your job because you’re sick of it or it doesn’t pay enough…

Actually, even now I don’t change my job all that often. I’ve worked in various security companies and sometimes as a trainer in paramilitary organizations. When I give my notice anywhere, they offer me pay raises, compensation bonuses, better benefit packages, or take me out to clubs with expensive cognac or whiskey, trying to persuade me to stay. When they find out that I drink only wine, they serve me rare vintages. They present me weapons that collectors dream of having, offer me all-expense-paid trips wherever I want to go. Once I went on a trip to Rome, then on another to Galicia. Afterwards I swore I’d never travel again, although my sweet fox liked Rome. Our first night there I was afraid I’d lose my mind. When Nadya saw my face the next morning, she resolutely packed our things and announced, “We’re going home!” “But, Nadya, we just…” “I said home!” After that, the longest trip we took was to visit Nadya’s relatives who live near Moscow.

In my mind’s eye I can still see my first job interview.

”Have you served? What rank?” The Centurion dressed in a barbarian black and blue uniform has noticed my military bearing.

“Senior Centurion, First Centuria of the Second Cohort, Seventeenth Legion.” I report. “The Third Frankish-Gothic campaign, the Fourth Gothic, multiple awards.”

The face of the “Centurion” is melting into a hesitant smile. “You are kidding, right?”

“Italy,” Dima prompts, “Major”

“I served in Italy,” I say. “Made it to the rank of Major and then left. Got homesick.” In my mind I see the streets of Skyros.

“Yeah, right!” The “Centurion” slaps me on the back. “You mean you served your two years… ” Then he looked me in the eye and choked on the rest of the phrase, his hands stretching along the seams of his pants, trying to stand at attention.

“Major, sir!”

“At ease! So, are you going to hire me or not?”

That’s how I got a job for the first time in this life.

It’s hard…

I am 43 years-old. I was born 27 years ago and yet 17 centuries have passed since the day of my death. My name is Titus Voltumium, but people call me Dmitry Valerievich. I’m a Senior Centurion of the Roman Legion who has forgotten how to say in Latin “Drop and give me twenty!” My wife is a redheaded beauty named Nadya who believes that the dead can possess the living. Nonsense! The dead can possess only those who aren’t quite alive themselves. I’m the proof of that. Except my passion for life was enough for the both of us. But maybe this is just the dream of an old soldier dying on the battlefield? I don’t know how old Centurions are supposed to die, but I surely hope it’s fast. I’ve been told that in your last moments your whole life passes before your eyes. I don’t know–memories or not, I’m not planning on dying any time soon. I am planning to go back to my sweet, red-haired fox, but not before I get to be a Centurion, get to be myself this one last time.

I look in a shop window. Not long ago a wave of people swept down this street, chasing a couple of policemen in gray who’d had the bad fortune of stumbling upon the crowd. These “Legionnaires” managed to get away, but their discarded shields and nightsticks are still on the pavement, waiting for something. Waiting for those men in gray to come back.

I look at the reflection of my face in the dark glass. A comfortable life has softened the outline of my jaw, smoothed the lines on my forehead and given me the look of a civilian. All my wrinkles have been erased like the markings from a wax tablet. No more smiling wrinkles around my eyes, laughing wrinkles around my lips, no more sad wrinkles around the wings of my nose. Could this be Titus Voltumium, Titus the Centurion, the bane of young Legionnaires’ existence, whose grin made hundreds of faces turn pale with hatred? I can’t believe this is me. It’s as if I am still dreaming of my thirteen-year-old self on the road to the Legion.

“MOVE ALONG!” The voice from the loudspeakers sounds like the horn of Jericho. “THIS DEMONSTRATION HAS NOT BEEN SANCTIONED! PLEASE MOVE ALONG OR WE WILL HAVE TO USE FORCE!”

That’s it. I turn around and look down at the end of the street. The snake is slithering toward me, the line of gray shields chasing people away. Some of them stop, turn around, shake their fists and shout. Then they start running again as the snake gets close. I am standing next to the tribune (oh, how I hate that word!) where the crowd is gathering. Another group of demonstrators stumbles out of the side street behind me and stops, unsure what to do.

“MOVE ALONG! PLEASE MOVE ALONG!” The gray snake of the Legion is swallowing up the street yard by yard. A chill runs down my spine … I look back at the window. Here it is! I can see the familiar harsh lines showing up from under the soft, civilian face. I try to smile and it makes me look like a wolf. Once again, I am Titus Voltumium, Senior Centurion.

I jump up on the platform, pushing people out of my way, and point in the direction of the gray figures. “There’s going to be a fight, we need to get organized!”

“Huh?!” says the crowd around me, not sure what to do. If only Uncle Flavius were here! He would find the right words, something important and easy to understand.

“Whores!” I shout. I’ve got to turn the complex into something simple.

“Whores!” shouts the euphoric crowd.

“Stupid cops!” Thank you, Uncle Flavius, dead god of the mob!

“Cops!”

I jump off the platform and order the crowd, “Fall into formation by Cohorts and Centurias!” One hand picks up a gray shield, another, a ubiquitous rock off the pavement. “Follow my lead!”

There is a slight pause. At first, they look lost. Then, with growing enthusiasm, they start forming rows. Now, the shields…

“Where do you think you’re going?!” I shout. “You and you, to the second row. You, with the shield! Yes, you with the red hair. To the first row. Move, you apes!”

“Forward, march!” I command after a bit. “Pull up! Move your feet! Fall in step!” They pull up and fall into step, as if they can clearly understand my orders in terrible mix of Latin peppered with Thracian slang.

Thank you, Furius-Lupus, Furius the Wolf, dead god of soldiers! Let these men in gray work for it! They’ll have to deal not with a mob where everyone is on his own, but with the same kind of uniform line of shields Centurions have. Well, maybe not the same – after all, they aren’t professional soldiers, but even so. Thank you, Centurion, for the first rule of a commander: Whatever is simple for your enemy must be made complex.

We are marching forward. In formation, in silence, no javelins. The gray snake, the snake of the Legion is moving toward us, swallowing up the street block by block in its terrible beauty. My heart skips a beat, just as it did for my eight-year-old self then, back in my childhood, just as it did for my forty-three-year-old self seventeen centuries ago, when I was Senior Centurion Titus Voltumium…

“Bar-rah!” I shout.

“A-a-a!” The others shout after me. Well, it comes out more like the whimpering of a frightened calf. A chill runs down my spine, my teeth are clenched. It won’t be long before the two snakes clash heads: the gray one and ours. They are here with me, always with me, my Uncle Flavius with the door ripped off its hinges in his mighty arms and Senior Centurion Furius Lupus, keeping the line with his round gray head and a wolf-like grin on his face.

The shield I’m holding is strangely light in my hand. I prepare myself –here is where I’ll take the first blow. I’ll fall back slightly to make the enemy lose balance. Then I push with my shoulder, and the fun will start.

I shout, “Left flank, pull up! Move your feet! ” I say, “Fall in step, you bastards!” If I had a helmet on, I would feel the cold sweat on the lining…

 


[1] Roman military officer, usually – Commander of a Centuria, a Roman military unit of about 90 soldiers. There were several grades of Centurions. Senior Centurion may command a cohort or hold a staff position in the Legion. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centurion

[2]Traditionalist party in the Late Roman Republic (2nd century B.C.E till middle of 1st century, about the time of dictatorship of Julius Caesar). See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimates

[3] Elected official in Roman republic. Military Tribune – a senior officer of the Legion appointed by Senate, from a commander of a cohort (unit of about 500 legionnaires) all the way up to deputy legion commander. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribune

[4] Also called “testudo formation”. In this formation heavy infantry cover themselves and the light infantry by the shields not only in the first row, but also from above. Used for protection from the projectile missiles (arrows, javelins). See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortoise_formation

[5] Military unit in Roman army, corresponds to a company (about 90 soldiers). Usually commanded by the Centurion. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centuria#Military

[6] Military unit in Roman army, corresponds to a battalion (about 500-800 soldiers). May be commanded by tribune or Senior Centurion. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohort_(military_unit)

[7] Battle cry of the Roman Legions. Battle cry “hurrah” as in “last hurrah” is derived from it.

[8] Celtic tribe which lived on the territory of the modern France in Roman times. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaul

[9] Tribe in the Southeastern Europe in Roman times. Spartacus was Thracian. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thracians

[10] East Germanic Gothic tribe in Roman Times. Lived along the southern Baltic coast. See more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gepids

[11] East Germanic tribe living on the territory of the modern Denmark in Roman times. Here more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heruli

Copyright © 1999-2009 Shimun Vrochek
This Translation Copyright © 2011 Tower of Harmony, LLC
All Rights Reserved, used by permission

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