Excerpt: The Fort by Adrian Goldsworthy
Today, we are pleased to be featuring an excerpt from The Fort by Adrian Goldsworthy, releasing today from Head of Zeus! Action-packed and highly authentic, this first novel of the City of Victory set on Rome’s Danubian frontier is sure to appeal to ancient history buffs and fans of adventure fiction.
The Dacian kingdom and Rome are at peace, but no one thinks that it will last. Sent to command an isolated fort beyond the Danube, centurion Flavius Ferox can sense that war is coming, but also knows that enemies may be closer to home.
Many of the Brigantes under his command are former rebels and convicts, as likely to kill him as obey an order. And then there is Hadrian, the emperor’s cousin, and a man with plans of his own…
Gritty, gripping and profoundly authentic, The Fort is the first book in a brand new trilogy set in the Roman empire from bestselling historian Adrian Goldsworthy.
Excerpt from The Fort by Adrian Goldsworthy, published by Head of Zeus. Copyright © 2021 by Adrian Goldsworthy
The fort at Piroboridava, Province of Moesia Inferior
Three days after the Ides of Februarius, in the consulship of Julius Candidus and Caius Antius (ad 105)
Snow starting falling again as they reached the top of the tower, the big flakes tumbling slowly through the still air to settle on the timbers. Two sentries were on watch, their drab cloaks dotted with flecks of white, and the men stiffened to attention when their centurion appeared. Sabinus, round faced, looking far younger than his twenty-seven years, was a relative newcomer to the legion and indeed the army, commissioned after several years on the council in his home town in Baetica, but was well liked. He grinned at the two legionaries, and gestured for them to stand at ease.
‘All well, boys?’ Sabinus asked them, knowing the answer already.
‘All well, sir.’ The ‘boys’ were both veterans, only a couple of years away from the end of their twenty-five years with I Minervia, and glad not to stand on ceremony. They pulled their cloaks tight and assumed the well-practised stare of sentries doing their job, apparently oblivious to the centurion and the officers with him, while making sure that they heard anything that might be useful or worthy of gossip. Rumours that they were to be relieved and allowed back to civilization had being doing the rounds of the garrison for weeks, and the arrival of the four riders at noon today was taken as a good sign. It was happening. No matter that it seemed odd to change garrisons before the winter was out, and no matter that it seemed even odder to replace a predominantly legionary garrison with a band of irregulars from the wilds of Britannia. If it meant that the vexillatio of I Minervia could return to their base – or anywhere other than here – then what did it matter if the army was making even less sense than usual. They were going, and soon by the look of things, and that promise helped to keep a man warm as he paced up and down on top of this tower.
One of the Britons’ boot skidded where snow had been trodden into sludge. The man next to him steadied him and then nodded as if to reassure his comrade. They were clean shaven, smart and might easily have been decurions in a regular ala of cavalry, true auxiliaries rather than half-barbarian irregulars. Each had a fine iron helmet with the shallow neck guard safer for a horseman than the wide ones on an infantry helmet. Both were slim, rangy men, with a stiff yellow plume atop each helmet adding to their height. The third was built along the same lines, but taller, the skin on his face so taut that even with his drooping moustache it looked skull-like. He seemed to sneer at the man who had almost fallen, although that may simply have been his usual expression. Swathed in a thick tartan cloak, with an old-fashioned army issue helmet, but no mark of rank, he struck Sabinus as more bandit than soldier.
The fourth man was slow to follow, but as he was the most important of the party – indeed the only man of account among them – Sabinus waited for him to appear. At long last the high transverse crest of the centurion’s helmet came up through the open trap door. Flavius Ferox was another Briton, but he came from a legion, even if currently put in charge of a band of cut-throats. From the start of the tour of the garrison the younger officer had done his best to be amiable. Ferox was senior to him, and by all accounts had a long, even distinguished, record, and it never did any harm to be pleasant to someone who was – or one day might become – a useful acquaintance. Pity the fellow was so surly.
‘The scorpio below,’ Ferox said abruptly before he was even off the ladder, ‘how often is it checked?’ On the level below there was a light bolt-shooting engine, covered as usual against the weather.
Before Sabinus could answer, one of the sentries slammed his boots down on the planking as he came to attention. ‘Cleaned every third day, sir!’ the man shouted his report. ‘Springs checked daily, sir!’
Ferox grunted, and Sabinus hoped that his gratitude to the soldier was not too obvious. He would have remembered the answer eventually, but had gone blank.
‘Can you reach the bridge with it?’ The fort lay beside the main track where it crossed over the river.
‘No,’ Sabinus replied, confident of this at least. ‘With luck and the right wind, you might get close now and again, but not with any accuracy. It’s just over two hundred and fifty paces from the gate to the first plank of the bridge. Two hundred and fifty-three to be precise,’ he added, having supervised the survey himself.
About the Author
Adrian Goldsworthy is a respected historian of the ancient world. He studied at Oxford, where his doctoral thesis examined the Roman army, and he went on to write acclaimed works of non-fiction including Caesar, Hadrian’s Wall, and Philip and Alexander. His fiction includes the authentic and action-packed Vindolanda Trilogy, set in Roman Britain.