Adrian Goldsworthy: Vindolanda

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Adrian Goldsworthy Vindolanda
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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.

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The Brigantian took the reins of the centurion’s gelding and walked his own horse forward.

‘Twenty, maybe a couple of dozen,’ Ferox said without looking up. ‘A couple with packs and a couple more unridden. Some of the horses are big, and some carrying heavy riders.’

‘As I said, but these are not the ones we followed.’ Vindex and his men had found the tracks of one party the day before, following it and finding the bodies. Just before sunset they had seen another similar-sized group join the first. Now there was a third bunch, heading in the same direction and probably planning to meet, which meant a band fifty or sixty strong at least, and one that was well prepared. The bigger horses were a puzzle. The tracks looked more like army mounts than ponies.

‘Looks like they came past seven or eight hours ago,’ Ferox concluded as he went to his horse and grabbed the horns of the saddle. ‘While it was dark.’

‘Do you need help?’ Vindex said nastily as the centurion hesitated.

‘Mongrel,’ Ferox muttered and then grunted with effort as he half jumped and half pulled himself up.

The trail headed up the side of the valley and the centurion put the horse into a canter as he followed it, the gelding bounding up the slope with obvious joy. Vindex and the others followed. The signs were clear – hoof prints and flattened grass. It meant that whoever they were they were no longer afraid of pursuit. They must be close to whatever it was they wanted.

‘Get the beacon lit,’ Vindex called as he caught up with the centurion.

‘Not yet. I need to know more.’ They came out of the valley on to a hilltop and followed the trail east. It was easy to see, and shifted direction only to avoid the patches of bog and the steepest and most rocky ravines. They went for a mile across this rolling country, riding near the top of the ridges so that all the land to the south was spread before them. Anyone looking would see them, but Ferox did not care. People in these parts knew his felt hat. It was old and battered, the sort farmers and labourers wore in the lands around the shore of the Mediterranean, and a rare sight in Britannia, let alone in the north. Locals knew it and would recognise him long before they could see his face. The raiders would see them too, at least if they were still close and watching out. Like the beacon, the sight might make them nervous or more dangerous or both. Still, if he kept to the open country then there should be warning of any threat.

They dipped down into a valley before climbing on to the next long ridge. Ferox slowed to a walk to preserve the horses, then came on to the crest and stopped as he saw something that chilled his heart. Vindex was beside him and went pale. The Brigantian tugged out a bronze wheel of Taranis, which he wore on a cord beneath his mail shirt.

‘Lord of Thunder, protect us,’ he murmured, pressing the wheel to his lips.

Two grey stones stood on the slope ahead of them. Men called them the Mother and Daughter or sometimes the Mare and Foal and they were old, older than memory, set up by the vanished people who left behind their mounds and their blades of flint – or perhaps by the gods themselves before time began. The Textoverdi rarely came here, and only stepped between the two stones in dire need to work some magic or make an oath unbreakable.

The Mother was the taller stone and someone had balanced a flat red brown pebble on top of it. That was a dreadful sign, one Ferox had never seen before, a warning of evil and a curse abroad. What was worse was that someone had come along afterwards, taken the pebble and thrown it to the ground so that it smashed in two. Then they had picked up one of the pieces and drawn on both the standing stones. Each picture was no more than a crude circle, turned into a face by dots for eyes and an upturned V for a mouth.

Ferox’s voice was flat as he turned to the Brigantian. ‘It appears that our fears were justified.’


When he had warned of trouble the centurion had tried to explain to his seniors that Rome was seen as weak, its armies in retreat, its power ready to crumble into the dust. Especially in the far north ambitious leaders scented a chance to carve out empires of their own. Men nearer at hand spoke in whispers of war and destruction, of magicians and druids preaching hate. Vindex and his men had seen the same signs and brought word to him, but he was dismissed as over-imaginative and nervous. Yet every instinct told him that they were right, just as the hunter sensed the lurking presence of a savage beast long before he saw it.

‘A druid?’ Vindex said the word warily, as if the name itself had power.

‘Something like that.’ Only a man confident in his own power and magic would risk violating a sacred place in this way.

‘Then we’re humped,’ the Brigantian concluded.

Ferox ignored him and beckoned to the two Roman cavalrymen.

‘Crescens, who is in charge now at Vindolanda?’ That was the nearest garrison, a couple of miles away to the south-east.

The curator looked flattered to be asked something, although surprised that the centurion did not know. ‘The Prefect Flavius Cerialis, new commander of the Ninth Batavians.’

‘They are equitata, aren’t they?’

Crescens nodded. Cohors VIIII Batavorum was a mixed unit, with their own cavalry contingent to support the main force of infantry. The Batavians were Germans from the Rhineland, big men with reddish hair and an obvious disdain for the rest of the army – not just their fellow auxiliaries, but even the Roman citizens in the legions.

‘Good. You will ride to Vindolanda and report to Cerialis – or whoever is senior if he is away. Please inform my Lord Cerialis that there is a force of at least sixty barbarians in this area. They are well armed and dangerous. They are planning an attack on the road to Coria. I would ask him to send word to the other garrisons and outposts along the road. Apologise to him that there was no time to write a report.’ The army always preferred to have everything in writing.

Crescens frowned in concentration as he listened.

‘Have you got all that?’ Ferox said. ‘Then repeat it to me.’

The curator may often have been a fussy, irritating man, but his obsession with detail was sometimes useful and he made no mistakes.

‘Good man. If you hear no more from me then return to the burgus as soon as you have rested. Now ride like the wind!’ Ferox turned to the other cavalryman. ‘Victor, ride to the watchtower and have them light the beacon. Tell the man in charge that there are sixty raiders on the prowl, and give the warning to anyone you meet.’

As the second rider galloped away, Vindex stroked his thick moustache and smiled. ‘I’m glad I brought you.’

Ferox grunted. ‘We do not have much time,’ he said, urging the gelding into a trot, although taking him wide of the standing stones.

‘If we are right, some poor buggers have a lot less time than us,’ the Brigantian said as they pressed on. ‘Are you sure about the road?’

It was not truly a road. The army had only built two proper roads here in the north. The Western Road passed through Luguvallium on its way north to the few outposts left beyond, while the Eastern Road went through Coria. There were a couple of forts between those two bases, and a route had been marked out to link them, with bridges where necessary. Ferox had heard talk of plans to turn this into a proper road, but so far nothing had happened.

‘Only thing that makes sense,’ Ferox replied, rubbing his chin again. The centurion suspected that he sounded far more positive than he felt. ‘The trail keeps on dead eastwards, not south, even though the routes that way are open. My guess is that the bands met by the end of night and will attack soon. That’s if they haven’t already done it. They’ll do what they came to do, and scurry back north to wherever they came from. There are not enough of them to attack a garrison, so they are looking for something in the open. Perhaps a farm, but no one that important or rich lives within easy reach, so it all comes back to an ambush on the road.’

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