At the end of last year, the lovely Sophie Ransom asked me to support a tour for Death to the Emperor. Unfortunately, I took rather unwell and then a multitude of life stuff got in the way. However, true to my word, I am posting the wonderful excerpt. Thanks so much, Sophie for your patience.
Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow
Back of the Book
AD 60. Britannia. The Boudica Revolt begins . . .
Macro and Cato – heroes of the Roman Empire – face a ruthless enemy set on revenge
The Roman Empire’s hold on the province of Britannia is fragile. The tribes implacably opposed to Rome have grown cunning in their attacks on the legions. Even amongst those who have sworn loyalty, dissent simmers. In distant Rome, Nero is blind to the danger.
As hostilities create mayhem in the west, Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus gathers a vast army, with Prefect Cato in command. A hero of countless battles, Cato wants his loyal comrade Centurion Macro by his side. But the Governor leaves Macro behind, in charge of the veteran reserves in Camulodunum. Suetonius dismisses concerns that the poorly fortified colony will be vulnerable to attack when only a skeleton force remains.
With the military distracted, slow-burning anger amongst the tribespeople bursts into flames. The king of the Iceni is dead and a proud kingdom is set for plundering and annexation. But the widow is Queen Boudica, a woman with a warrior’s heart. If Boudica calls for death to the emperor, a bloodbath will follow.
Macro and Cato each face deadly battles against enemies who would rather die than succumb to Roman rule. The future of Britannia hangs in the balance.
First Century wheeled and moved into the pine trees. Cato heard the dull crackle of trampled undergrowth and the snap of twigs and small branches as the auxiliaries climbed the slope. The following two centuries followed suit before the other units moved into the trees on the right. When all was ready, Cato gave the order to advance. The cavalry moved slowly, stopping frequently to allow the infantry to keep up. It was a laborious process, he conceded, but the only way to ensure that the column could pass through the defile without any harassing attacks from the cover of the trees.
The track inclined gently as the ridges closed in on either side. The trees began to thin out, and for the first time, Cato caught glimpses of his men in the open. There was no sound of any fighting and no reports of contact with the enemy. The pace of the advance had picked up noticeably, and he was feeling relieved at the prospect of not delaying the main column’s progress. He turned to call over his shoulder.
‘First troop, First Squadron, on me!’
He urged his horse into a gentle trot, and the eight men of the troop followed close behind. A mile along the track, there was a steep rise and the defile narrowed, with cliffs and rocks at the top and scree slopes below. Cato hoped that the rising ground would provide a good viewpoint from which to see the route ahead, and perhaps find enough open ground on which to camp for the night.
He spurred his horse to the top of the rise, pulled hard on the reins and stopped abruptly. Two hundred paces ahead, where the defile was narrowest, a crude stone wall had been raised across the open ground. In front of it lay a ditch, though it was not possible to see how deep it was. A redoubt rose in the middle of the wall, perhaps sixty feet across. He could see that the wall was lined with men and bristling with spears and bows.
Many helmets glinted in the afternoon sunlight and a long red standard flickered in the breeze. As the warriors caught sight of Cato and his mounted troop, they let out a loud roar that echoed off the sides of the steep slopes on either side.
Cato raised a hand in mock greeting. ‘So, my friends,’ he muttered, ‘this is where it begins in earnest.’
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