Ghosts of Carrhae - Chapter II
"Crassus Magnus? Bah, he shall never earn that title. His fellows in the Triumverate can be justly called great, but what has he done himself? Pacification of a slave revolt cannot compare with the conquest of Spain and Gaul. What has Crassus done to earn respect, except filling his pockets with gold and cloaking himself in favors? He is a vulture, nothing more." Lucius snorted. Marius did not disagree with his fellow Centurion, but neither did he show approval for such disrespect. Although Crassus was unable to inspire confidence in his troops, he was in command. Marius was bound by faith and honor to respect his commander.
"Do you consider me a traitor... for speaking my mind?" Lucius said, staring across the table at his silent friend. The wine they shared had been provided by Crassus, along with a sumptuous feast and the entertainment, a troupe of dancing girls hailing from Damascus. The festive atmosphere belied an army preparing for war, and the unsettling contrast hung upon the conscience of war-weary Marius.
"No, I do not. I merely question your tactfulness, considering our current company. We must not forget who controls our Fate. It is not the Senate, or Jupiter, or any of the Gods to wish we worship.Our destiny lies in one man's ambition. Should he succeed, so too will we. Should he fail..." Marius trailed off, his voice kept quiet so as to not attract notice. The others were entranced by the undulating stomachs of the dancing girls, finding the bare skin exposed between layers of bright fabrics increasingly enticing.
Marius did not follow their example, averting his gaze so as to remain unaffected by their beauty. He maintained his devotion to Nirenas on campaign by restricting his attention from all other women. Through careful manner and conscious ignorance of the opposite sex, Marius had avoided the pitfalls that his colleagues often found themselves in. Lucius had begun to watch the performance, not wishing to pursue their dangerous discussion any further.
Marius closed his eyes, listening to the soft melodies which accompanied the dancers. The string music reminded him of Nirenas, who would play late at night as the two lay together in bed. Marius was not a man prone to daydreams, but the music drew him in, clawing its way through the walls built up to protect him from emotional distress. He struggled to control himself. A sudden urge to flee the camp sprung forth from deep within his soul, an intense, genuine wish to leap to his feet and find his way home to her. A sense of loyalty, not to Crassus but to his men, allowed Marius to maintain his composure.
Far away in Antioch, Nineras set aside her guitar and began to weep. She had done all she could for him, her prayers for a safe return would go unheeded. Despair had yet to appear on the horizon, but messengers soon will proclaim its imminent arrival.