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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise
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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.

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The Fall of Rome
Excerpt
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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."

 

Jeff Draper - Author

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