Adrian Goldsworthy: Vindolanda

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Adrian Goldsworthy Vindolanda
  • Название:
    Vindolanda
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Head of Zeus
  • Жанр:
    Историческая проза / Прочие приключения / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2017
  • Город:
    London
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1-78-497468-8
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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Vindolanda: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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AD 98: The bustling army base at Vindolanda lies on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world. In just over twenty years time, the Emperor Hadrian will build his famous wall. But for now defences are weak as tribes rebel against Rome, and local druids preach the fiery destruction of the invaders. It falls to Flavius Ferox, Briton and Roman centurion, to keep the peace. But it will take more than just a soldier’s courage to survive life in Roman Britain. This is a hugely authentic historical novel, written by one of Britain’s leading historians. Review ‘Don’t be surprised if you see Vindolanda in the starting line-up for Historical Fiction Book of the Year 2017’ . ‘An authentic, enjoyable read’ . ‘A well-written and authoritative novel that is always enjoyable and entertaining’ . ‘An instant classic of the genre. No historian knows more about the Roman army than Adrian Goldsworthy, and no novelist better recreates the Classical World. Flavius Ferox, Briton turned Roman Centurion is a wonderful, charismatic hero. Action and authenticity combine in a thrilling and engrossing novel’ Harry Sidebottom.

Adrian Goldsworthy: другие книги автора


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‘Mongrels!’ he spluttered. ‘Sons of—’

Vindex and the other Briton thrust him back into the water. Crescens’ mouth hung open as he watched, but still the curator did nothing.

The Britons lifted the centurion up again. This time he looked limp and exhausted, all the fight gone. His tunic was the dull off-white army issue, loosely belted so that it hung down to his shins, and the seam along one shoulder had been torn completely so that the material hung down. There were bruises growing on his bare skin, and a couple of old scars, one of them long. His dark hair was soaked and filthy, several days’ worth of beard on the chin of his slim face, and his usually clear grey eyes stared out blankly. There were traces of dried vomit on his torn tunic and on his skin, wine stains and dirt on his hands, bare legs and feet.

‘There, are you quiet?’ Vindex had switched back to his accented Latin. ‘I need you, and I need you now.’ He saw Philo standing near the door, staring aghast at his master. ‘Greek. Get him some posca.’ That was the cheap drink of soldiers and slaves, more water than sour wine and very bitter in taste. ‘And get him ready. He has a long way to ride and he may need to fight.’

With a nod at the other scout, they began to assist Ferox back into his quarters, until he shook them free. The centurion stared around him, eyes bleary. He noticed the gaping Crescens and looked at him for what seemed a long time.

‘Ah, curator,’ he said at last. His voice had a rich musical quality so that everything he said sounded almost like verse. ‘Do not let us keep you from your duties.’

Vindex shrugged as he followed the centurion back into his quarters. The other Briton went back to the trough and started dabbing water on his cut lip.

Crescens rallied, took a roll call and issued the new watchword of ‘Mercury Sanctus’, but his heart was not in the parade and he dismissed them after only a cursory inspection. Several men, including the Thracian, decided to eat their breakfast out in the courtyard to see what happened. At first there was no sign of Ferox or Vindex and the only change was that the scouts had taken the corpses down and laid them side by side on the grass. Two more Britons came into the outpost and started to fill waterskins for the men and animals outside, walking past the dead bodies without visible signs of interest or concern.

One of the dead was an old man, with thin grey hair and a straggling beard, dressed only in a ragged tunic with a checked pattern so faded that it was only just visible. He had a few light cuts about the face, but no serious wound. The other body was younger, taller and fitter, wearing dark wool trousers, a striped tunic and a pair of shoes that still had plenty of wear left in them. His right leg was twisted, the lower bones obviously broken. Otherwise the young man looked unhurt, save that his head and his left hand had been cut off.

After a while Ferox and Vindex reappeared, and the soldiers moved back a little, but stayed close enough to listen. The centurion did not show any sign of noticing them. Ferox was pale, his eyes bloodshot and sunken. He was wearing closed boots, trousers and a deep red tunic with a padded jerkin on top. The centurion walked like an old man, but there was some trace of his normal hard-eyed gaze as he stared at the body of the old man.

‘Any sign of the boy?’ he asked Vindex. The regionarius was frowning, giving the impression that thought was a great effort, and talking an even greater feat of strength and will.

Vindex shook his head.

With a grunt, the centurion went to the other corpse and prodded it with his boot. ‘Don’t think I know this one,’ he said, his voice flat.

‘Nor me,’ Vindex agreed. ‘But I reckon he used to be taller.’

After a while Ferox leaned over to inspect the broken leg and the other wounds. The centurion studied the corpse in silence, his skin taking on a green tinge as a wave of nausea swept through him. The Thracian did not think that it was because of the grisly sight. The centurion swayed, rubbed his chin and mouth with one hand and straightened up.

‘Hmm,’ he muttered, and then added something that did not sound like Latin, all the while massaging his thick stubble.

Vindex said nothing and so they waited.

‘Bad business,’ Ferox said at the end. ‘But do you truly need me?’

‘Yes.’ Vindex was standing very still, looking straight and unblinking at the centurion, who struggled to meet his gaze. ‘This is your patch.’

‘Huh.’ Ferox prodded the corpse again with the toe of his boot.

‘He’s still dead,’ Vindex said.

‘Huh.’

Crescens appeared, coming from the small stable on the far side of the courtyard. There were four horses at the burgus, but one of the mares was not in good shape.

‘Good morning, curator,’ Ferox said, as if seeing Crescens for the first time that day. ‘How is the grey?’

‘The leg is coming on, but still lame.’ Crescens’ reply was confident, for he was a cavalryman and this was something that he did understand. ‘I would not trust her for more than a mile or two.’ That meant that Syracuse boasted just three horses fit for duty, for the centurion and the four cavalrymen among the stationarii, including the curator himself.

‘Today is the Nones?’ There was no more than the slightest trace of doubt in the centurion’s tone. He looked at Vindex, who said nothing.

‘No, sir. The third before the Ides,’ Crescens said, surprised that the centurion was fully six days out of reckoning. ‘In September, sir,’ he added maliciously.

‘Huh.’ Ferox was still trying to meet Vindex’s unflinching stare, as if Crescens was not there. ‘And you are sure that you need me?’

‘Yes, I need you. It will be easier to have a Roman with us, and you can follow a trail better than anyone I have ever met.’

‘Is it my fault that you don’t know many people?’ the centurion said with a shrug. ‘Are you truly certain?’

For the first time the Brigantian looked weary as he nodded. ‘I swear by the god my tribe swears by, and by Sun and Moon, that you must come.’

Ferox said nothing and did not even grunt. He started to sway once again, and they could see the effort it took for him to stop.

‘I also swear by our friendship that you should do this.’

Ferox sighed and seemed to sag. ‘Curator,’ he said, ‘have the other horses saddled and ready to leave. I’ll take Victor and you with me.’

As Crescens walked away Ferox spoke again, talking to the Brigantian.

‘We are not friends,’ the centurion said. ‘I just haven’t got around to killing you yet.’

I

IT WAS CLOSE to noon, only a few fat white clouds in an otherwise bright sky, and Ferox pulled the brim of his felt hat down to shade his eyes from the glare. He would have preferred rain and wind, weather suited to his mood, but the day was a fine one and he resented it, just as he resented everything else. At least his gelding was behaving, and he gave the horse a loose rein, trusting him to pick the best path down this rocky valley. Ferox needed to think, but each thought came grudgingly.

‘Drink before a battle if you must,’ his grandfather, the Lord of the Hills, had told him when he was young, ‘although not too much if you hope to live. Never drink before a raid.’ His grandfather had forgotten more about raiding than most men would ever know.

They were not on a raid this morning, but they were surely hunting marauders who were and that needed the same cold head and colder heart. Ferox had led plundering expeditions and chased raiders more times than he could remember, and he knew that this was true, just as he knew that today his spirit and power were weak. So was the ability to reason, drummed into him by his teachers all those years ago. His mind was not clear, which meant that he would likely make mistakes, and perhaps he would lead them into an ambush and he would die. At least that would be a release.

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