IX – Strained Nerves And “What The . . . !?”

The day of departure had finally arrived, much to the relief of everyone’s strained nerves. Our three centuries were formed up in the immense chamber where so much slaughter had taken place, two hundred fifty Praetorians, plus myself, more or less ready to face the unknown. Before us loomed that large, circular damaged doorway that led to who knew where, and against who knew what.

In the lamplight my boys were all but invisible in their blackened armor and shields, as intended. An army of ghosts from Rome’s past. Revived from death to fight one last campaign.

Beside me stood the Emperor (He really didn’t rate the title ‘Emperor’ as big brother had never seen action or had a triumph. Didn’t matter though as he was in charge and could call himself whatever he wanted. He, personally, still preferred to be just ‘Caesar’.) with the inner circle grouped behind him.

Tiny and Sarai were also present, Tiny looking more chipper than he had been for the last few months. I suspect the main reason was how we had decorated our shields. In addition to the crossed lightning bolts of the legions, each shield had on it, dead center, an image of Tiny, face forward, with his helmet on. Both lightning bolts and image had been done in grey so as not to make us moving targets. Even so, it seemed that Legion Mutt knew something the rest of us (except Sarai of course) didn’t.

Big Brother looked older than his years, and lines of strain creased his face. His blond hair had turned white, adding years to his appearance, but his step was still somewhat sprightly and his hands rock steady. There was no tremor in his voice as he spoke.

“Well . . . this is it Varus. The moment of truth. Part of me is afraid I’ll never see you again this side of life. In the past, you’ve managed to return from seemingly impossible situations. Please don’t break your streak.”

I looked down at Caesar and smiled a strained smile.

“Come on Quintis. Have you ever known me to miss a homecoming? Just stick a roast something at this entrance and we’ll be here post haste. Seriously, what will be will be, but I’ll say this about that. We’re not going on this little adventure just to get ourselves killed. Wait five years for our return. If we don’t come back by that time, seal up this doorway permanently and give us a good wake. After all, it may be that we go a little ways down that tunnel and waste whatever is giving you ulcers. Then it’s back home in time for dinner. Let’s just take this one step at a time.”

Caesar nodded his head and, with pleasantries out of the way, I gave the order to move out. Four scouts went in first to check for sudden surprises. After a brief wait, in the rest of us went. Three Centuries traveling at a brisk pace to cut down on the chance of being easy targets. When we were all in the tunnel, I turned to give Caesar the high sign to seal up the doorway.

There was one small problem. Where the doorway had been was now a solid rock wall. Our retreat had been removed in a strange, and currently unexplainable, way.

Chapter X

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Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 6:25 PM  Comments (1)  
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