The embers of dusk glowed akin to the embers of the ensuing camp fire that evening. Teucer trapped and cooked a couple of rabbits. Over supper the Briton schooled the Roman in a few choice words and phrases in his language that might get him out of trouble. Oppius would be attacked and executed instantly if he revealed himself to be a Roman, even if he pretended to be a deserter. In terms of deserting Oppius remarked how he would not blame Teucer if he had thoughts of deserting and returning home.

"I do not want the garden of Britain to serve as your grave."


"The legion is my home now. This mission may not be such a lost cause too. If there's one thing a recruiting officer will do - it's make himself available for a couple of mercenaries looking for employment," the Briton replied, his tone conveying twice the confidence that he felt inside.

The two men set off early the next morning and soon came to a large settlement. From the intelligence provided by Caesar, Teucer thought it was a good a place as any to locate the Roman agent. Oppius was far from overwhelmed by the village of Gowdhust. The houses were rickety, at best. Hope and prayers, far more than building materials and architectural skills, kept most of the dwellings upright. Wild-eyed children scampered about, ankle deep in mud and grime. The entire settlement smelled like a sewer, Oppius thought to himself, scrunching up his face in disgust upon first being assaulted by the stench.

The only cheer emanated from the hut which housed and served alcohol.

"Well if I were recruiting for the army I'd head for the nearest place which served alcohol. If you wait here, I'll see if I can find some answers," Teucer remarked and headed off to the hut where a bunch of Britons were either roaring with laughter or asleep in a corner. Oppius tried not to look conspicuous whilst wearing a scowl upon his face, to help dissuade anyone from approaching him. The unwelcoming expression was little different to the one he normally wore. The inhabitants of the settlement seemed little interested in the stranger however. They had seen plenty of mercenaries in their time and raised not their pale, drawn faces to the large archer as they walked by him.

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Thankfully Teucer returned relatively quickly. He bought a couple of lose-tongued barbarians a drink (although Caesar did not furnish the centurion with a cohort for the mission, he did furnish him with plenty of gold) and then came back after downing his drink.

"The bad news is it seems we missed our quarry by a day or so. But the good news is I know where he's heading."

"The worst news is that the agent is travelling with a bodyguard of three picts," the Briton remarked as the two men walked toward the next major settlement.

"Picts?" Oppius replied, only half concentrating on his friend as he shook his head in disapproval again at the quality of the road that they were travelling on. Numerous wagon tracks scarred the ground and the path seemed to meander more than the Tiber. Britain would not be built in a day, but Rome would build it up, the centurion thought to himself.

"They're from the north. They've got a language, dress sense and cuisine all of their own  -  which you'd want them to keep for themselves. With their red hair, pale skin and rasping war cry they'll be some of the scariest foes you've ever encountered. And their women are even scarier. Indeed this trio are probably down from their home to get away from their wives," Teucer expressed, half in jest. "But these picts could prove formidable. They fight hard and dirty. Think of this agent as being protected by Roscius, times three. Caesar and Rome would do well not to poke the hornet's nest of the tribes in the far north."

Oppius and Teucer had little time to worry about barbarians from the north however, as they were soon attacked by local brigands.

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