Адриан Голдсуорти: The Encircling Sea

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Адриан Голдсуорти The Encircling Sea
  • Название:
    The Encircling Sea
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Head of Zeus
  • Жанр:
    Историческая проза / Прочие приключения / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2018
  • Город:
    London
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1-784-97816-7
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    5 / 5
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The Encircling Sea: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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From bestselling historian Adrian Goldsworthy, a profoundly authentic, action-packed adventure set on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. AD 100 A FORT ON THE EDGE OF THE ROMAN WORLD cite cite

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Adrian Goldsworthy

THE ENCIRCLING SEA

For Kevin, with many thanks

Britannia at the Start of the Emperor Trajan’s Reign

Фото

Place names

Alauna: Maryport in Cumbria

Aballava: Burgh by Sands

Baiae: now underwater in the Bay of Naples

Bremenium: High Rochester

Bremesio: Piercebridge

Coria: Corbridge

Corinium: Cirencester

Deva: Chester

Eboracum: York

Gades: Cádiz in Spain

Londinium: London

Lugdunum: Lyon in France

Luguvallium: Carlisle

Maia: Bowness-on-Solway

Magna: Carvoran

Mona: Anglesey

Thule: A mysterious island in the far north, whose identity is uncertain. The Romans may have applied it to one of the Shetland Islands, or even Iceland or Norway.

Tomi: Constanta in Romania

Trimontium: Newstead

Uxellum: Ward Law, although the identification is uncertain

Prologue

SHE HAD GIVEN very precise instructions about her grave. Those last days were wracked with pain, and the lines on her face grew so sharp that she looked twice her thirty-nine years. Yet always she was lucid and precise, and when the end came he had done as he had been told, even though he did not understand why this stunted tree and this headland were so important.

It had often been like that in all their years together. She told him what to do and he obeyed, for his trust was complete. She saw things and knew things hidden from other mortals. That was simply the way of it and it was her power and wisdom that had kept them alive and allowed them to thrive in this place so far from their home. The others had not listened and had died or become slaves again. Only his men had survived and found a new place to live, where their neighbours feared them and brought tribute. None had dared to attack them for more than ten years, and that was her doing, for word of her magic had spread, and people feared her even more than they feared the savagery and steel of his warriors.

She looked very small now, and such was her power that he had often forgotten that her body was so tiny. They had dug the grave as a square, a spear’s length on either side and as deep. It had been hard, for the ground was stony, and sparks flew as the blades of the pick-axes struck against the rocks. He had begun the work, but all of the brothers from those first days, the men of the oath, had taken a hand and before the sun rose the next day it was done. They carried her, wrapped tight in white linen they had taken from a merchant ship. Her face was uncovered, and her hair coiled up on either side of her head. Perhaps it was the pale light of the new morning, but he could no longer see the streaks of grey. She seemed young again, and at peace, her white skin smooth like a child’s. It was over, the agony as her innards had rotted away was done. She had held on for months through sheer will, not expecting to win the fight, but waiting for a sign. He would never forget the smile spreading across her face when the news reached them. She had told him what he must do and then her spirit had left, leaving only the clay of her body.

They covered her with a blanket before they began to shovel earth over her remains. He stood, black shield in one hand and spear in the other. When they finished he remained. It was hard to judge time, but whenever he thought an hour had passed he would walk seven times around the low mound. Sometimes others came and shared the vigil, but never for long, and when the sun set he was alone.

At dawn they came back, three warriors in mail with swords at their belts, leading the master of the merchantman they had taken.

‘You know why you are here?’

The man nodded. He was a Briton from the far south, one who had adapted to the ways of Rome and eked out a living carrying goods along the coast. A storm had blown him off course, and they had found him.

It was not chance. They had taken their ship out to sea for the first time, testing it after repairs that had taken many years to complete, because it was hard to find good timber here in the wilds. A year ago their boats had rowed out to take a becalmed trading vessel that happened to be carrying a cargo of oak.

Since then everything had slotted as neatly into place as if each piece was the work of a great craftsman.

‘Your son knows what he must do?’ The merchant’s son was to be released and to keep their little ship and the rest of the crew, but only after he had sworn to help arrange matters.

‘Yes, lord.’

‘Kneel.’

The man obeyed. He had auburn hair, thinning on top, and one of the warriors grabbed the long pigtail at the back and lifted it out of the way.

The sword hissed through the air, and the finely-honed edge cut through flesh, muscle and bone. With a thump the severed head dropped onto the earth, and a jet of blood sprayed across the grave, the soil sucking it away in a moment.

‘Is everything ready?’

‘Yes.’ The tallest of the warriors, a man with long blond hair and a thick beard, answered.

‘Then do not wait a moment,’ he said. He could feel her power surrounding him. Their tale was not over. New strength would be brought to him to guide him in the years to come. For all the sorrow of this loss he felt renewed, almost young again. He had warriors, he had a fine ship, and soon he would see new power at work, leading them all on. It was a time for blood and a time for vengeance.

The others left and he returned to his vigil. Then he smiled, because he knew her spirit had come to him. ‘Not long, now,’ it seemed to whisper in his ear.

I

FLAVIUS FEROX PATTED Frost fondly on the neck, took off her bridle and let the grey horse wander free. Snow, another mare so like the first that they might have been twins, was already cropping the grass, and he trusted the animals not to run away. Neither of them looked tired, even though he had driven them hard during the night, riding up high where the patches of grubby snow became an unbroken field of white. Some of the time he had led them, taking a steep and rugged path to come down into this valley beside the dark lake, relieved to find that his memory was good. The stream was where he remembered, rushing down the slope, chattering noisily and swollen with melted snow, so that there was only one safe place to cross on this side of the loch. He had come to this place only once before, some five years ago, but the brooding presence of the lake had stuck in his mind as if he had known that one day he would return.

This was his last chance. If they had not turned north then they would have to come this way and he would meet them here and perhaps he would die or perhaps not. If they got past him, then by tonight they would reach their own lands and be safe among their tower-building kin. Ferox did not know these lands and its chieftains well enough to think that any would aid him, and with the nearest Roman outpost more than two hundred miles away they were unlikely to fear the empire. For the moment, the power of the emperor and Rome came down to one centurion. Ferox doubted either the emperor or Rome would ever know what happened here or care if he turned around and rode away, letting the raiders escape. No one would blame him, and he had taken no oath to the poor family who scratched a living on their little farmstead. All he had done was promise to do his best to find their little girl and bring her home, and that was enough to make him chase the raiders for seventeen days and had brought him to this place. It was also enough to keep him here. By noon or soon after he would know whether or not he had guessed right and the raiders were coming this way.

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