By Manny Jasus
Sometimes our part in the war we wage for others goes unrecognized. Should we demand the glory for ourselves?
My name is Gaius Aurelius Quadratus. I am a Legionnaire in the service of Rome.
I am young, but among my Legion I am an experienced warrior and by my time in battle, their senior. I have seen Legates come and go with the whipping whims of our Emperor, while many of our brothers have died or defected in the unrelenting stresses of War. But I remain.
Our Legion is sharp; forged in the fires of battle, drawn taught by the sweat of our brows and the swinging steel of our swords. We cut through waves of enemies; the ground sops blood as rain into desert sand. As we march ever on, the earth opens its gaping maw to swallow our dead and choke on the brittle bones of our enemies.
Our leaders give us crusts of bread and watered wine when each battle is won, and though a pittance, it motivates us to keep moving. We have grown thirsty for war and hungry for glory; glory that never comes – at least not to us. Our Legates carry it proudly over their heads, bowing low as they heap it at the feet of our Emperor.
What is left, running from the corners of his mouth after gorging himself, they catch in their sweaty hands, hoarding it for themselves at the tops of towering monoliths, behind barred and bolted doors, in heavily guarded rooms, reclining and bathing each other in the opulence which we afford them; for which we have fought, and killed, and died; looking down from time to time to assure themselves we are still fighting, conquering, growing the lands, treasures and fame in which they indulge.
They care not for the cost, and pay it gladly with the blood of other men. Toys – for that is what we are to them, toys to be pushed and pulled and thrown to the edge of maps in order to forward their tattered Roman Standard. And when we are broken, they reach into the pockets of Rome and pull out more.
It has been, and ever will be, this way. Men of means and little else – or if they rose from substance, have long forgotten and wandered far from it – commanding masses of mighty men; desperate men; men who long to climb from their place in the mud to rest and feast in the coolness of the tower once their dangerous deeds are done. But there is no rest at the foot of the tower – only death and despair in the darkness of its shadow.
I will storm their armored gate and lead our Legion up the winding stairs. I will sound the attack and hurl our standard to the center of the feasting beasts. And then those monsters, those murderers of men will be called forth for their actions, weighed and found wanting. They will be spared the sword, but have ample time to reflect on their devilish deeds as we shove their bloated bodies through the window, to fall from their tower to jury and judgment on the field below.
In my mind it is decided. In my heart the deed is done. And yet, as I look into the eyes of my brothers and friends, I see my sons.
For all of this bitterness, for all the cruelness and hate that has crept into my soul; they remain ever with me. Urging me to do my duty as an honorable citizen of Rome, and then … to return to them.
I am calm.
But this peace is fleeting. The Legate snaps his command. I raise my sword and push forward once more. The Legion follows.
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