The Gladiator

The Gladiator by Simon Scarrow Read Free Book Online

Book: The Gladiator by Simon Scarrow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Simon Scarrow
Tags: adventure, Historical, Military
silently. His companion looked up and surveyed the beach and the ruins of the port. ‘By tomorrow this place is going to start smelling a bit ripe. The bodies will have to be dealt with. ‘
    ‘Dealt with?’ Sempronius cocked an eyebrow.
    ‘Yes, sir. It ain’t the smell that worries me. It’s the sickness that follows death on this scale. I’ve seen it at work after a siege. Small town in southern Germany, many years back, soon after I joined the Eagles.The defenders hadjust left the dead where they had fallen and the weather was hot. Baking hot. Anyway, by the time the survivors surrendered, the air inside was higher than a kite.The place was a den of pestilence. ‘
    ‘What did you do?’ asked Sempronius.
    ‘Nothing we could do. The legate ordered the survivors to stay inside the walls and then had the gate closed up. Couldn’t afford the sickness spreading to our troops. After a month there was only a handful of the townspeople still alive, and most of them were too sick to be worth anything as slaves. If they’d only disposed of the bodies properly, then many more would have lived. ‘
    ‘I see. Let’s hope that whoever is still in charge of the port knows what to do then. ‘
    Macro clicked his tongue. ‘It’ll be a bastard of a job, sir. ‘ ‘Not our problem. ‘ Sempronius shrugged. ‘Come on. ‘ They continued along the shoreline until they reached the remains of a watchtower that had guarded the entrance to the port. The blocks of stone still stood, as high as a man, but above that the timber posts and platform had gone. So had the gate, and the walls had given way under the pressure of the sea water bursting over Matala. Beyond the barely discernible line of the wall, the port was a mass of rubble, timber and tiles, with no sense of the lines of the neat grid of streets that had once thronged with the inhabitants of the town. Now a handful of figures stumbled about the ruins, or sat and stared abjectly into the distance.
    The three Romans paused at the edge of Matala, shocked by the scene in front of them. Macro took a deep breath.
    ‘No easy way through that lot. Better to work around the edge and see what the situation is further inland. ‘ He gestured up the slope.The cliffs on either side ofthe bay gave way to steep-sided hills that flanked the town, narrowing into a defile that bent round, out of sight, as it led away from the coast.
    They set off again, a short distance from the shattered remains of the wall. The slopes had been stripped of much of the shrubs and trees that had grown there and now they were covered by the same dismal tide ofdebris and dead people and animals that the three men had witnessed on the beach. They passed the remains of a small cargo ship that had been carried up on the wave, before it struck a large boulder and smashed to pieces, leaving only the ribs and some timbers still caught around the rock. Cato could not help being awed by the sight.The power ofthe wave was as terrible and mighty as the wrath of any of the gods.
    As they reached the defile, Cato and the others found that the easiest path was to cross the remains of the wall and pick their way warily across the ruins. A small gang of young men was busy pulling valuables out of a ruined house that must have belonged to one of the port’s wealthier families. A handful of busts had been extracted and discarded, and the looters were busy removing silver plates and small chests of personal effects. They stopped their work and looked up warily as the three Romans passed by. Macro’s hand went casually to his sword hilt.
    ‘Ignore them, ‘ Cato muttered. ‘We can’t deal with that now. ‘ ‘Pity. ‘ Macro sniffed, and let his hand drop back to his side. They passed on by without exchanging a word. On the far side of the defile, the ground opened out into a wide plain, and here the damage caused by the wave gave way to the effects of the earthquake that had shaken the island to its roots. There was no

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