It’s a long time since I did Sample Sunday, so here’s a little offering from my historical novella and All Romance Ebooks bestseller, The Hun and The General. I hope you enjoy it.
An All Romance Bestseller
Livianus woke with a heavy heart. Caecilius would not listen to him. In some ways he admired the younger man for the strength of his convictions but nothing could persuade Livianus that it was right to stand by a weak and unreliable emperor. Not when the empire was at stake.
He turned on his side, surprised to see the space beside him empty. Attila had taken him to his bed, and they had fallen asleep entwined in one another, discussing their plans. But for Caecilius’s stubbornness, Livianus felt happier than he had for a long time. If he had any regrets, it was that he had to leave this place at all, and he knew that the likelihood of returning was as remote as the farthest corner of Britannia. Siege or no siege, the campaign would be bloody.
Livianus got out of bed, slipped on his clothes and picked up the scroll he’d prepared the night before. He tapped it on his chin, then went outside to look for Caecilius. Attila had agreed to let Caecilius leave on condition that he stayed away from Ravenna and Constantinople, at least until Theodosius had been toppled. Still, Livianus was under no illusions. The odds were stacked against Caecilius. The future of an entire people, of two nations in fact, carried more importance than that of one man.
He found Caecilius and the four soldiers ready to depart, the horses loaded with provisions that Attila provided. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”
“I’m sure, Livianus. It pains me more than you can know to leave you in these circumstances, but I will not be a part of this.”
Livianus took hold of Caecilius’s hand and squeezed it. “I fear for you, my friend. Please, stay with me.”
Caecilius snatched his hand free. “It is not for me you should worry, but for yourself. Whatever my fate, I go to it with a clear conscience.”
Livianus sighed. “Then take this.” He handed Caecilius the scroll. “This makes you the rightful owner of my villa and all that goes with it—the women, the slaves and the governorship.” He remembered his ring, the governor’s seal, and tugged it from his finger. “Here, it’s yours now.”
Caecilius took the ring, scrutinized it silently, and slipped it onto his finger. “Livianus, are you sure—”
“I’m sure. Go, before one of us weakens.”
The sound of horses greeted Livianus as he turned away from his old friend, a dozen Huns armed to the teeth with swords and recurved bows. Livianus counted five of them with stakes strapped to their mounts. He felt sadness more than surprise. He looked again at Caecilius, ready to plead another time, but he could see from the expression on his friend’s face that it would be futile.
“We are to escort you to the other side of the river.” The leader of the Hun warriors, a scar-faced brute with a thin, gray beard and black teeth, addressed Caecilius and his soldiers.
Caecilius mounted his horse. Livianus felt as if a great rock sat upon his chest. He grasped Caecilius by the ankle and looked him in the eyes. “In the name of the gods, think again.”
“Never.” Caecilius dug his heels into the horse’s flanks, and it skittered forward. “Come on, men. We’ve wasted enough time here.”
Livianus, head bowed, made his way to Attila’s palace without looking back. The sound of the hooves faded quickly into the distance, and he felt a gloom settle upon him. Sometimes the weight of statesmanship was too much to bear. When he entered Attila’s chamber, the Hun king was seated on his throne looking toward the door.
“Don’t look so worried.”
“I wish he’d joined with us,” said Livianus, closing the door behind him.
“You did all you could. You’ve been very generous. He will have a comfortable life in Gaul.”
“Will he? I saw what your men carried, Attila. I’m not a fool.”
“And I am not a complete barbarian. The stakes are to help them cross the river, nothing more.”