Companions (The Parthian Chronicles)

BOOK: Companions (The Parthian Chronicles)
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Companions

 

Peter Darman

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Pete Darman

 

 

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

 

Formatted by
Jo Harrison

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Contents

List of principal characters

Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Epilogue

Historical notes

List of principal characters

Those marked with an asterisk * are Companions – individuals who fought with Spartacus in Italy and who travelled back to Parthia with Pacorus.

Those marked with a dagger † are known to history.

The Kingdom of Dura

*Alcaeus: Greek physician and chief of the medical corps in the army of Dura

*Arminius: German, former gladiator and now a centurion in the army of Dura

*Byrd: Cappodocian scout in the army of Dura

Dobbai: Scythian mystic, formerly the sorceress of King of Kings Sinatruces, now resident at Dura

*Drenis: Thracian, former gladiator in Italy and now a centurion in the army of Dura

*Gallia: Gaul, Queen of Dura

* Godarz: Parthian governor of Dura

*Lucius Domitus: Roman soldier, former slave and now the commander of the army of Dura

*Pacorus: Parthian King of Dura

Rsan: Parthian governor of Dura

†Surena: a native of the Ma’adan and an officer in the army of Dura

*Vagharsh: Parthian soldier who carries the banner of Pacorus in the army of Dura

 

The Kingdom of Hatra

*Diana: former Roman slave, now the wife of Gafarn and princess of Hatra

*Gafarn: former Bedouin slave of Pacorus, now a prince of Hatra

 

Other Parthians

*Nergal: Hatran soldier and formerly commander of Dura’s horse archers, now the King of Mesene

†Orodes: Prince of Susiana, now an exile at Dura

*Praxima: Spaniard, former Roman slave and now the wife of Nergal and Queen of Mesene

 

Non-Parthians

†Akrosas: Thracian, king of the Getea tribe

Athineos: Cretan sea captain

†*Burebista: Dacian gladiator

Cleon: Greek patriot

Decebal: Dacian king

Draco: Thracian, king of the Maedi tribe

Hippo: High Priestess at the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Kallias: High Priest at the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Malik: Agraci prince, son of Haytham

Marcus Aristius: Roman tribune

†Quintus Caecilius Metellus: Roman governor of Ephesus

Radu: Thracian, king of the Bastarnae tribe

Timini Ceukianus: senior
editor
of the games at Ephesus

Introduction

‘Halt!’

Asher pulled on the reins to stop the mule as it walked past the open gates into the Citadel. He smiled politely at the burly centurion who had been standing to one side outside the guard room, two more mail-clad guards armed with spears walking in front of his beast to prevent it going any further. One grabbed its reins and looked with disinterest as the centurion halted a few paces from him.

‘Get down and state your business.’

Asher smiled politely and alighted from the driver’s seat. He unconsciously fidgeted with one of his long side curls as he did so.

‘You are a Jew?’ said the centurion, a note of condescension in his voice.

Asher smiled politely again. ‘Indeed, sir.’

He pointed to a beautiful cedar box positioned in the rear of his cart.

‘I have an appointment with the queen, regarding some documents of her father’s.’

The centurion’s ears pricked up. ‘King Pacorus?’

Asher placed his hands together and nodded solemnly. ‘Indeed, God rest his soul.’

The centurion must have been at least six inches taller than Asher, and was twice as wide as the lean Jew standing before him. Dura’s army may not have been the force it once was but its soldiers were still a credit to the kingdom, their weapons and armour the finest that money could buy and their discipline legendary. The spirit of the old king lived on, Asher thought. The centurion’s helmet was burnished and sported a magnificent white transverse crest that indicated his rank, as did the silver greaves that covered his shins. He carried a short sword at his left hip and a dagger in a sheath on his right hip, though Asher noticed that the ordinary soldiers by his mule carried swords in scabbards that hung on their right sides. No doubt one of the many idiosyncrasies associated with military life.

The centurion tapped the vine cane he was holding against his right thigh. He turned and shouted towards the office.

‘There’s a Jew here says he has business with the queen.’

He turned back to Asher.

‘Name?’

‘Asher, sir.’

‘Says his name is Asher.’

A clerk dressed in a plain grey tunic came from the office.

‘Asher, grandson of Aaron, is listed as having an appointment with the queen, centurion.’

The centurion waved the clerk back to his office and pointed his cane at the box in the back of the cart.

‘Open it.’

‘It is for the queen,’ protested Asher.

The centurion casually rested his left hand on the top of his sword but said nothing. Asher understood the implied threat well enough.

‘It might be full of snakes or scorpions,’ said the centurion. ‘You might be an assassin sent by one of the queen’s enemies to murder her. Can’t have that. Now open it.’

‘Does the queen have any enemies?’ said Asher, trying to lighten the mood.

The centurion’s dark eyes narrowed as he moved menacingly closer. Asher smiled once more and scurried to the rear of the cart, pulling the box towards him and opening the lid. Inside were rolls of papyrus, half a dozen of them arranged side by side.

‘As you can see, sir, no snakes.’

‘Take them out,’ ordered the centurion.

Asher was going to protest but thought better of it. So he took each roll out of the box and laid them beside it. The centurion placed his cane on the cart and picked up the box, holding it aloft and shaking it a few times. Satisfied, he placed it back on the cart and walked off.

‘Let him pass,’ he ordered the guards who retook their positions at the gates. They rested their oblong shields on the ground as Asher replaced the rolls in the box, secured the lid and climbed into the driver’s seat. He ordered the mule to walk forward and nodded his head at the guards as he passed. They ignored him as he entered the courtyard of Dura’s Citadel. On his right was a large barracks block that occupied almost the whole southern wall, and beyond it the great stables where the warhorses of the cataphracts were housed. He felt strange to be back in this place, where once he had been a frequent visitor when his grandfather had been the kingdom’s treasurer. That seemed like another life.

He halted the cart at the foot of the stone steps leading to the entrance porch of the palace. Guards standing sentry by the stone columns ignored him as he walked up the steps carrying the cedar box. How much history had been made on these steps? He stopped and turned to look at the open gates. Once kings rode from those gates to decide the fate of empires.

‘The queen awaits.’

He snapped out of his musings to see a short, elderly man with thinning hair dressed in a long white robe with red leather sandals on his feet standing at the top of the steps. He had an imperious air and waved Asher forward with his right hand. He turned and walked into the porch, Asher hastening up the steps to follow. They passed more guards in the reception hall that led to the throne room, the doors to which were closed. The steward turned and pointed at the box Asher was holding.

‘I will take that.’

Slightly taken aback by his brusque manner, Asher frowned but handed over the box. He was beginning to regret his visit to the palace. It was well known that the queen could be testy and short-tempered but it appeared that her staff shared the same attributes. It was most tiresome. More pleasing was the agreeable aroma of myrrh that filled the hall, the incense being burned in the stands either side of the doors to the throne room. The steward turned and ordered him to follow as one of the guards opened a door and they both entered Dura’s centre of power.

Light lanced into the chamber through small windows set high in the walls, their footsteps on the stone tiles the only sound as they made their way to the far end where Queen Claudia sat on her high-backed throne. Once there had been two thrones on the stone dais when King Pacorus and Queen Gallia had ruled Dura but the latter had been dead for many years and the old king had renounced his powers long before his recent demise. Those powers had been inherited by the middle-aged woman sitting before him, who observed him like a spider watches its prey. He bowed his head to her.

‘Hail, Queen Claudia.’

Her lip curled lightly in acknowledgement as her dark eyes watched the fussy steward place the cedar box on the floor in front of the dais. Once he had done so she waved him away with a curt swipe of her hand. He walked backwards across the tiles, bowing his head as he did so, being careful not to fall over as he withdrew from the queen’s presence. There was a time when Princess Claudia was reckoned a great beauty, having inherited her mother’s lithe frame, thick locks and high cheekbones. But that was long ago. Now those locks, though still thick, were as dark as night and her once beautiful face had taken on a severe countenance. Her mother had dressed in white and blue and had worn dazzling gold jewellery that complemented her great beauty and blonde hair. But her eldest daughter wore no adornments and dressed entirely in black, thus increasing her intimidating appearance.

Her black eyes continued to study him as the steward left the chamber and the door was closed. To avert her uncomfortable gaze he looked up at the standard hanging on the wall above the dais behind her. The large square banner was white with gold edging and sported a red griffin. It had accompanied Dura’s army on many campaigns down the years but looked as though it had been made yesterday. Asher blinked and took a closer look. It appeared pristine though he knew this could not be. Perhaps his eyes were failing him.

‘Asher, grandson of Aaron.’

The queen’s words made him jump. He smiled and bowed to her.

‘Your servant, majesty.’

She pointed a bony finger at the cedar box.

‘You said you had something that concerned my father. Is that it?’

Asher nodded. ‘We all grieve for you, majesty. It is hard to believe that the king is dead.’

Her face remained an emotionless mask. ‘He was lonely in his autumn years. He is with my mother now.’

The notion that the queen might now be lonely flashed through his mind, but he remembered that she had always refused any suitors. And so rumour had it she had her mystics and sorcerers that always surrounded her. Today though, only her Amazon guards surrounded her. As a boy he had remembered them as long-haired beauties attired in mail and white tunics. But today, though they still wore mail armour, their black tunics and leggings gave them the appearance of demons of the underworld. Perhaps that was the idea. Those closest to the queen rested the tips of their swords, made of the magical Ukku steel, on the floor. The others lining the walls had their swords in their scabbards.

There was a time when the Amazons rode into battle beside Queen Gallia but now they did little fighting. Their task was to protect their queen who rarely left the confines of the Citadel, let alone the city. Of course they still practised with their bows on the shooting ranges outside the city, but unkind rumours circulated that the queen used them as assassins on occasion and had trained them to use magic against her enemies.

BOOK: Companions (The Parthian Chronicles)
12.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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