135 A.D., Jerusalem
Tendrils of smoke wafted up into the crisp autumn sky. A faint glow of orange hung over the defeated city as the morning’s first light crested the jagged hills in the distance.
General Sextus Julius Severus stood on a slight rise and basked in his moment of triumph. Not since his campaigns in Britannia had he felt the euphoria of victory against so formidable an enemy. After three years of fighting against Simon bar Kokhba and his rebellious hoard, the fiery death of Jerusalem stood as a testament of Roman will against those who dared to stand up to the most powerful army in the world.
He drew in a long, satisfying breath, and took in the heavy smell of smoke, embracing it like a burnt offering to the gods.
“I thought I might find you here,” a voice said from behind.
Severus pulled out his sword and spun around, pointing it behind him. For a moment, both men stood toe-to-toe, neither one moving. When he recognized Governor Tineius Rufus, he lowered his guard. “If you were standing a step closer, I might have killed you.” He re-sheathed his sword. “You never come up to a soldier like that from behind.”
Governor Rufus stared at Severus, anger painting his face.
Severus immediately wanted to take back his words. Few men, even those who had risen to the rank of general, had addressed the Judean governor in such a dismissive fashion and lived to tell about it. However, thought Severus, if he had any brains, he might treat the incident as a necessary reminder, albeit, an unintentional one. In a treacherous backwater place like this, danger stalked men everywhere, and one could never afford the luxury of becoming too comfortable. Severus knew a few soldiers who had, men who had been given an honorable funeral not long after.
Rufus was a tall man with striking features, who made it a point to accentuate his physical prowess in the presence of others. He pulled back his purple robe, slipping it over his arm in a way that reinforced his status.
“One should mind one’s tone when addressing the highest official in the country, personally picked by Emperor Hadrian himself.”
The words grated in Severus’ ears. Another political appointee enamored with the smell of his own breath. It galled him that any one of the centurions under his command knew more about administering a province than the man before him. But Rufus was right about one thing. Emperor Hadrian had handpicked him, with the specific expectation he maintain order in a country that knew nothing but rebellion. If it weren’t for the legions at his disposal, the sharpened edge of an assassin’s blade would have ended Rufus’ political ambitions long before this glorious day.
“My humble apologies most esteemed Governor. It will never happen again.”
That's it for now!