Teucer breathed out in time to the sound of the arrow sighing as it left his bow. The arrowhead pierced through the pict's long red beard and into his throat  -  his life extinguished in a half-formed gurgle. The intake of breath from his cousin was taken in both shock and pain as Oppius' arrow buried itself easily and deeply into his stomach. This time a scream and then groan did cause the air to shudder. Mourning his comrades not however the third bodyguard raised his large shield up in a defensive position and ordered the agent to stand behind him. The agent barely heard the Briton though as he raced away in the opposite direction to the attack. He caught the sight and sound of an arrow whistle past him as Teucer tried to shoot him in the leg and bring him down.

Oppius covered the ground between the tree line and his enemy quickly, drawing his gladius as he did so. The remaining pict unsheathed a large Roman cavalry sword, a spartha, in reply  -  another spoil of war. The centurion took in his opponent. He was equal, if not superior, in size and strength to the Roman. As the barbarian snarled he noticed that there were plenty of gaps where teeth once resided. Few Britons seemed to have good teeth. His nose was as crooked as a Roman tax collector. A long red welt of a scar, in the shape of a lightning bolt, ran across his chest.


Swords clashed upon each other. The barbarian roared wildly, but there was still method in his madness. He was agile for his size and his power made up for any deficiencies in technique. The centurion tried to get inside but the large sword and shield kept him at bay. Oppius believed that he could perhaps ultimately defeat his opponent if he kept chipping away at him and picked his moments  -  but as he caught the agent escaping out of the corner of his eye he realised that time was of the essence in nullifying the bodyguard.

Oppius soon formed a plan. He tried to keep his distance from the pict, parrying any attack, and used his footwork to circle his enemy. The barbarian smirked, sensing that he had the beating of his now defensive minded opponent. He grinned at his ambusher  -  but one of the last sights the barbarian would see was that of his enemy smiling back at him, as an arrow from Teucer struck him in the spine. The pict arched his back in pain, his arms were spread-eagled. Oppius wasted little time in stepping in and slashing his gladius across his opponent's unprotected chest. Lightning can strike twice in the same place.

As much as Oppius would grant a portion of respect to his opponent for his skill and courage as a fighter, he stood over his defeated enemy not  -  but rather set off in pursuit of the agent immediately. Confusion and fear had driven the Roman to head off in the opposite direction to the settlement. His fear and confusion increased when his pursuer caught up with him, zigzagging between the trees, and called out to halt, in his native language. Where words slowed the agent not, Oppius' knife did  -  as he threw the blade into the back of his prey's thigh during a clearing in the woods.

Both men panted as they attempted to catch their breath, whilst the agent winced in pain upon the ground too.

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"Who are you working for?" the agent scornfully exclaimed, offering his enemy a look that was as sharp as the dagger in his leg.

"It's customary for the captor to ask the questions. Now, who are you working for? Tell me, or I'll cut everything out of you, except your tongue," the centurion replied, drawing his sword and smiling sadistically. Should somehow he be unable to bring the agent back to Caesar for interrogation, Oppius thought it prudent to try and extract some information now.

"I refuse to talk to you," the agent spat back with disdain. "You're just a soldier, a dog. You're no better than my barbarian bodyguards."

"I'd rather be a dog than a snake in the grass. And if I'm no better than your bodyguard, at least I can say that I've got more life in me than them. Now tell me who you're working for."

"Never. I am armed with my philosophy. My stoicism will act as a shield against any of your bribes or threats," the agent announced, his intended boldness not quite being mirrored in his reedy, quivering voice.

"Your shield didn't perform too well deflecting my dagger. It's doubtful it'll be able to blunt the point of my sword. Everybody talks  -  and sooner rather than later," Oppius replied, slightly distracted by the appearance of Teucer.

"I see you caught up with the bastard. Has he talked yet? I'd be happy to loosen his tongue, in either language."

"He'll talk. Caesar will make him scream more than any woman he's been with. But how are things out there?"

"We've started to cause a stir. A few people have just seen the bodies. We should leave, now."

"I will take my leave of you too. My death is the final duty I owe to my master. A plague be on the tyrant, Caesar," the agent exclaimed as he clutched his dagger and, though his features were twisted in fear and hesitation, he closed his eyes and rammed the point of the knife into his neck. Oppius was too far away to prevent the agent's sudden and dramatic action. Blood gushed from the mortal wound and his face quickly became ashen.

"At least we won't have to now carry the bastard back with us and listen to his yammering," Teucer remarked, after a pause.

"Let's return to the camp. I've seen enough of the garden of Britain not to want to see any more of it," the centurion replied, disappointed that he would not be able now to bring the agent before Caesar and unmask the traitor in Rome.

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