“Qadir waded out of the water next, the chestnut mare calm under his touch, and Silus raised a disgusted eyebrow.
‘There’s no justice. Not only the best horseman I’ve met in this whole bloody country, but his bloody manhood’s still dragging in the water.’
The Hamian shook his head and hooked a thumb over his shoulder. ‘If you want to be truly scared, take a look at that. Why do you think I was swimming so quickly?’
Both the officers looked past him, to see the impressive shape of Arminius as he waded out of the river. Silus shook his head slowly. ‘Gods below …’
The German smiled complacently as he walked past them, and Silus pointed out into the fog still wreathing the riverbank. ‘Get your sword out, bugger off into the mist and get that thing covered up.”3rd
in the "Empire" series, FoS continues the story of Marcus Tribulus Corvus, as he is now known. The attack on the enemy camp, the final assault meant to drive the tribes back north, has cost the life of Marcus' friend and protector, another score to settle with Calgus, who is also responsible for killing his birth-father.
Tribune Scaurus, the coolest commander a man can wish for and one of the best characters in the series, is tasked by the governor to take a detachment accompanied by Petriana's donkey wallopers (cavalry wing) and Votadini prince Martos north, to free the Fortress of a Thousand Spears, a Votadini city.
Meanwhile, the real stars of this book, Praetorian Centurion Rapax and corn-officer (read Imperial spy) Excingus, arrive in Britannia, Hades-bent on finding and executing the Roman officer who murdered the (traitorous) son of the Praetorian Prefect, second most powerful man in Rome. They leave the Tungrian camp on a trail after Marcus, taking with them something he cherishes, and Dubnus, hardly recovered from the spear wound suffered in AoF, commandeers half a century of battle-dodging legionaries to go after them and recover what they took.
After featuring the infantry and the archers in the previous books, this one focuses on cavalry, as Marcus joins the scouting Petriana wing on their progress north.
I love this series and can never get enough of the military humour and battles and little anecdotes about the military life, with all its aspects. There are good soldiers, bad soldiers, crafty soldiers, and the same for officers.
My favourite characters this time were the two Roman centurions Rapax and Excingus, whose banter and bad cop - worse cop routine is great fun to read. Tribune Scaurus has been a favourite since AoF as is his bodyguard Arminius and since the book features the Petriana, the steady and competent Tribune Licinius takes the centre stage as well.