It was a scorching hot afternoon and there was trouble at the docks in Joppa. The Roman Legion X Fretensis was departing after long months in the desert, and departing quickly, with more than three thousand men, siege engines, auxiliaries, pack animals, whores, and prisoners. The legions were bound for places like Iberia, Gaul, Britannia, or Dacia. Some few were even heading to the Eternal City, to Rome itself.
Only two days before, with the army inland, the port town had been a half-empty wreck that had been twice burned, and the inhabitants fled or dead. Today, however, the forces of Rome were on the march and the city was a chaotic wreck. Each unit marched with banners proudly unfurled. There were dozens displaying ships, still more decorated with bulls, and some few dared capture Neptune’s attention with the visage of the Sea God.
Haphazard stalls had been set up in the ashes, amidst still smoldering ruins, to sell water, food, and wine. One sweaty, bearded man was beating the side of a marauding camel as it sipped from a broken wine amphora. The streets of Joppa had never been meant to accommodate so many, and the bay was equally stuffed with ships of all sizes.
For all the teem humanity, the Roman army was nothing if not efficient, and they were well-practiced in dividing the spoils of war. Adult slaves were carried in cages, and those younger were chained together, or simply led onto already over-full ships. Piles of the plunder looted from the fortress of Masada were added, and then the centurions themselves began to board. Many slaves were sold outright to the slavers that accompanied every army, but the veteran men of Legion X Fretensis knew they could sell their slaves for much more once they reached Rhodes or Rome.
Ahimsa Kerp is the author of the historical horror novel EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD from Severed Press and co-author of the mosaic fantasy novel THE ROADS TO BALDAIRN MOTTE from Reputation Books, as well as a contributor to many anthologies including CTHULHUROTICA and DEAD HARVEST. Ahimsa hails from the Pacific Northwest but has been living overseas since the aughts.
Ahimsa’a website: http://obscureclearly.wordpress.com/
Ahimsa’s travel blog: https://arewethereyeti.wordpress.com/