Read The Last Roman (Praetorian Series - Book One) Online

Authors: Edward Crichton

Tags: #military, #history, #time travel, #rome, #roman, #legion, #special forces, #ancient rome, #navy seal, #caesar, #ancient artifacts, #praetorian guard

The Last Roman (Praetorian Series - Book One)

BOOK: The Last Roman (Praetorian Series - Book One)
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The Last Roman

 

Book One in the Ongoing

Praetorian Series

 

by Edward Crichton

 

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012

 

This ebook is licensed for your
enjoyment only and is not to be shared, reproduced, resold, or
altered in any way. The author thanks you for respecting his
intellectual property. If you wish to share this novel with others,
please refer them to
Smashwords.com
.

 

 

Books by Edward Crichton:

 

The Praetorian Series

The Last Roman (Book
I)

To Crown a Caesar
(Book II)

 

 

Starfarer

Rendezvous
with Destiny

(Forthcoming Spring,
2013)

 

 

 

This novel is dedicated to those who
helped make it what it is today; Alex, Amanda, Anita, George, &
Taras. In particular, I would like to thank my wife, Michelle,
whose devotion to making my story the best it could be ensured my
characters became real people. Thanks, love.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Prologue

I – Hunter

II –
Praetorians

III –
Preparation

IV – War

V – Rome

VI – Caligula

VII – Claudius

VIII – Betrayal

IX – Legion

X – Agrippina

XI – Siege

XII – Endgame

Epilogue

Coming Soon

About the
Author

 

 

 

Prologue

Rome, Italy

September, 37 A.D.

 

The streets of Rome are not to be traversed
carelessly by night, for all sorts of vagabonds dwell within the
narrow alleyways and shadowed corners that dominate the city during
its nocturnal hours. It is there where many a pickpocket and thief
lurk in anticipation, hoping for an aimless passerby to wander
their way, and be it known that there are professions far worse
than these. But such thoughts were far from the mind of young
Marcus Varus as he traversed Rome’s dangerous streets, as all he
could think of was how brazenly stupid the learned men of Rome
actually were.

The thought dominated his mind as he approached the
Palatine Hill and the great Temple of Lupercal located beneath. Now
the home of the Caesars, legend told that this unassuming mound of
earth was where the divine founders, Romulus and Remus, were raised
by their adoptive she-wolf nearly eight hundred years ago. It was
the place of Lupercalia, one of Rome’s most sacred rituals, and
where Varus had come to lay down his life in its defense be it
needed.

Where are they? This is where the manuscript said to
go.

Varus, old at the age of twenty eight, was a scribe
of the highest caliber. He was the personal documentarian,
historian, linguist, and advisor to the Caesar himself, Caligula,
but most importantly he was proud that Caligula also considered him
a friend. As he entered the temple, however, Varus began to resent
their friendship, as his most recent assignment to research a point
of interest for the Caesar had led him to the precarious position
he now found himself in.

Documents of a very strange origin had been
discovered deep beneath the Palatine Hill, buried in a hidden
chamber that was found during Caligula’s most recent renovation
project of the
Domus Augusti
. They were wrapped around a
perfectly round orb the size of a melon and were composed in a
shaky hand, as though transcribed moments before death’s cold grip
seized hold of the author. They were written in an antiquated
dialect of Etruscan, a tribe that had resided North of Rome
centuries ago.

When word of the discovery reached the
Curia
Julia
, ambitious senators immediately sent word for both the
object and the documents to be brought to the Senate building for
inspection. But Varus had been overseeing the renovation project
during the initial discovery, and was the first man to analyze
both. In the short time he’d had with them, he’d held the sphere
and attempted to translate the documents for himself, but it wasn’t
long before the Senate’s sycophants forced them from his
possession.

Varus later learned that their linguists had
transcribed a message that spoke of a treasure which Remus had
hidden away beneath the Palatine upon hearing of his brother’s
treacherous plan to execute him. Riches were expected that far
exceeded anything Rome currently held in its coffers, effectively
guaranteeing its fiscal stability for decades to come. The Senate
had dispatched its lackeys to secure this treasure immediately, a
plan that would help fund a private coup against the great leader
of Rome, a plot Varus had suspected for months but had only just
now confirmed.

But the Senate had been wrong. Horribly wrong.

Upon learning of this treachery from Varus, Caligula
had sent him to reanalyze the documents and discover their true
contents. What he had found hidden in the nearly dead Etruscan
language was a message that told of something far more powerful
than a simple cache of lost treasure. Where the Senate had read of
a treasure in the form of gold, silver, and gems, its true
potential was something entirely different.

It hinted at Remus’ association with the Druids from
northern Germania who, while currently simple priests, were once
rumored to have possessed great power and mystical abilities.
Although any magic they may have wielded in the past was long
considered extinct and forgotten, the fact remained that those lost
powers were still feared by many. If they could indeed summon aid
from realms unknown to Rome’s wisest leaders, the empire’s very
survival could be in question. Varus only hoped he was in time to
stop the traitors from unleashing whatever untold evils the
document hinted at.

Finally, with the short run from the
Curia
Julia
completed, Varus entered the temple, bowing in reverence
to the sacred tombs ensconced on either side of the small dome, the
final resting places of both Romulus and Remus. Early each calendar
year, all of Rome would gather outside the small temple to
participate in the rituals of Lupercalia, an event meant to promote
fertility for young men and women. He thought back to his teenage
years, running around the walls of Rome, whipping young girls with
bloody goat skins, full of energy and vigor with nothing in front
of him but the future.

Varus felt sad that all that was left of those
innocent days were distant and fading memories, but forced himself
to focus on his duty.

Creeping forward as quietly as he could, Varus found
a small hole dug in the center of the magnificent structure’s
marbled floor. Grabbing hold of a rope, he slowly descended several
meters into the dark abyss before making contact with the floor. He
then followed a narrow tunnel before emerging onto a slight ledge
overlooking a vast chamber. It was large enough to contain the
entire senate floor and Varus marveled at how it had remained
undiscovered for so long.

Then he discovered the object of his quest.

Six men stood around two others facing a lone object
at the far end of the chamber, their faces glistening in the dim
flicker of their torches. It was too dark for Varus to identify any
of them, but two were wearing their togas with a broad, purple
stripe running along the seams, likely identifying them as augurs,
Rome’s priests and seers. Their skills at interpreting and
analyzing omens made them crucial for directing the future, and
decisions were never made unless these omens were read favorably.
Varus had never put much stock in their mystical abilities, instead
trusting hard work and determination to drive his own fate.

As Varus crept through the shadows, he noticed that
the rushed dig project had resulted in weak bracings holding back
the tons of dirt above the freshly dug tunnel. His eyes panned the
walls and ceiling, looking for any way to bring down the hill to
crush his adversaries, when the two augurs approached the simply
adorned and seemingly harmless altar at the back of the room. They
were carrying the orb-like object that had been found with the
documents – which now exuded a dim greenish-blue glow.

Those below knew little about the object, except
that it was adorned with illegible markings, but Varus knew better.
His translation associating Remus with the Druids convinced him
that the object was the key to unlocking whatever evil secrets the
document described.

Sorcery… Bah! If the Druids could utilize such
powerful magic, how is it that they no longer possess such
power?

It was with this thought that Varus realized the
Druids’ destruction perhaps had less to do with the overpowering
might of the Roman war machine, and more with their own tampering
in such dark realms.

By the time Varus found a cross beam he was certain
would collapse the makeshift cavern, the object’s glow suddenly
flared into a brilliant blue. His eyes turned towards the
incandescent glow, and he found himself unable to turn away from
the alluringly beautiful object, for he had never before witnessed
such a glorious sight.

How could something so beautiful be used for such
evils?

As Varus stood there deep in thought, a magnificent
blast emanated from the object as it shone brighter than the sun
itself, accompanied by a sound louder than the roar of a thousand
legions’ battle cry. The force of the eruption was enough to knock
Varus back against the wall and he knew he was too late.

When his vision cleared, he realized he was right.
Emerging from the mist left over from the explosion were gigantic
figures, rivals to the Titans of legend. He knew his last moments
were upon him as he gazed upon the monsters, and when he closed his
eyes, waiting calmly for his journey to Elysium, his last thoughts
were of Caligula, and how he had failed him.

 

 

 

Part One

 

 

 

I

Hunter

C-130J Super Hercules(II), Over the Mediterranean
Sea

July, 2021 AD

 

C-130J Super Hercules(II) aircraft have often been
lauded by servicemen and women as the smoothest ride in the sky.
First deployed only a year ago, the Super Hercules(II) was the most
advanced military aircraft on the planet, and after only a few
months of active service were practically considered luxury liners
by those who flew in them.

It was unfortunate then that the hurricane type
conditions currently surrounding my particular C-130J didn’t care
what people thought of them, and proceeded to toss and bounce my
plane around like any other aircraft. But even prior to the storm,
the ride was no smoother than my first HALO combat drop out of an
old C-130 over Palestine three years ago, or the countless times
since. I’d long ago concluded that people who named these things
should really fly in one every once in a while.

Perspective was, after all, a wonderful thing.

I smirked at my wayward musings; my constant
companion for years. They’d become a relentless presence in my
life, a simple way to pass the time when nerves became most acute.
While five years in the US Navy, the last three of which I’d spent
as an elite Navy SEAL, had extinguished any ability I may have once
had to feel fear over something as mundane as a flight through a
thunderstorm, that didn’t mean I was completely steadfast. I could
feel nervous before a mission and even anxious during them, but I
was never totally afraid. Fear can compromise an operator’s
initiative or lock him up in the heat of battle, and that can get
people killed. The one thing that always hits a nerve, however, was
the loss of control, like the fact that I knew I couldn’t do
anything if something happened to the plane. I didn’t possess the
skill set required to help, and that made me feel helpless, hence
the wandering thoughts.

Being in control has always been important to me,
ever since I was a kid, which is what brought me on this trip in
the first place, to retake control of my life. I was a fourth
generation Navy man, following in the illustrious footsteps of men
who had served in Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and
World War I, even if my career hadn’t started as early as it could
have. Annapolis had accepted my enrollment straight out of high
school, but I’d turned them down. Instead, I chose to attend
Dartmouth to pursue a life studying history and the classics, much
to my father’s intense disapproval. I’d never seen him more
disappointed, and it wasn’t until a short time after I’d graduated
that I finally redeemed a sense of honor in his eyes when I joined
the Navy five years ago. I was his favored son once again.

BOOK: The Last Roman (Praetorian Series - Book One)
12.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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