Romans and Their Wine (Flash Fiction)

“I need more wine, more gold, and more girls.”

“Choose one of them.” The emperor’s messenger holds the quill at the ready.

“Well, the wine, it always comes. Someone finds a cellar, a merchant, or something, and the wine always comes.”

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Photo Credit: Andreas Adelmann

“So, women or money, Auxilius?”

Auxilius picks up a pewter cup, drinks, and wrenches his face up so tight that it looks like he’s been stabbed in the stomach.

“Wine. Definitely more wine.”

The messenger sighs, scribbling on a scroll, and bids Commander Auxilius farewell as he gallops away from the camp.

The camp is raucous with energy, like a colony of ants returned from a kill. Hammers ring off nails and saws grind tree trunks in half. Orders and yells and laughter clamor for attention in the mid-morning activity. Around one wooden structure, a ring of soldiers fan out.

A short man, laden in armor, stands with his hands on his hips, a sneer on his face, and a rope under his foot. Another soldier, thin as a snake and just as long, struggles to pull the rope with both hands.

“Get off, Amus!”

“That’s Centurion Amus, runt.” The centurion grabs the rope and yanks it, sending the young recruit sprawling into the dirt. Some of the soldiers laugh. The other men have already seen Auxilius, who stands by, watching the engagement.

“Don’t you know how to kneel properly, runt?” The centurion sweeps the ground with his foot, connecting his metal shinguard to the sprawling recruit’s ribcage. The thin soldier coughs, and puts his hands on the ground to push himself up. The armored man’s leg smacks the young soldier twice more before he falls on his face. More laughs.

“Grovelling on the ground like that, like a slave, how can you serve Rome, runt?”

“A GOOD QUESTION, CENTURION.” Auxilius steps into the ring of other soldiers, and the laughter ceases. The centurion Amus turns just in time to see Auxilius reach toward him with a massive, open palm.

The commander tugs the centurion’s hand into the air, as if in triumph, “How can you serve Rome? Learn from this man’s example.”

The newest recruits are confused, even afraid. Amus, surprised, smiles. The veterans are intrigued, but only because they know what is coming.

“This man is a true Roman.” Auxilius continues pulling the centurion’s arm up until the centurion’s smile turns into a grimace, “A master of leadership, he knows the best way to teach his fellow Romans is through example. Tomorrow, when we attack the walls of our enemy, this true Roman will be at the front of the line, leading the charge! Learn from his courage, brothers!”

Those who did not pity Amus the centurion laughed. Some of the veterans clapped him on the back. Auxilius ordered an attendant to give Amus double his share of wine that night. 

I wrote this and quite a few others as part of the exercise from my post on Creating Characters. I’m sure I will post a few more soon.

As I wrote, Auxilius quickly inhabited the strong leader archetype, something I was not expecting at all with the character I began with. In the piece, there is no description of Auxilius at all. I am curious, what did Auxilius look like to you? Strong or tall or light or what? Did the lack of description detract from any character?

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