The Depths of Neptune - Cover

The Depths of Neptune

Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 26


Caesius strode across the bustling dock, his eyes darting from the laborers unloading crates from the wagon to the captain of the small galley. His impatience was palpable, as he all but put his boot to the backs of the workers, urging them to move more quickly.

The captain, a weathered seafarer with a wary eye, watched the crates pile up on the dock with growing concern.

“I told you what I was bringing,” Caesius snapped, his voice laced with a hint of menace.

“You said you were bringing some personal effects and supplies,” the captain retorted, his voice rising in frustration. “This is an entire ship’s worth of cargo!”

“These are supplies,” he growled, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. “I’m paying you handsomely and I’ll need every bit of this when we get to our destination. You can either take us and get paid, or I can have my men kill you and we can take your boat.”

The four large men standing behind Caesius shifted threateningly, their hands resting on the hilts of their own weapons. It was clear that they were not afraid to use them if necessary.

For Caesius, this voyage was a matter of life and death. It had taken every contact and favor he had to arrange his escape so quickly. Twice, since he had sent his servant to begin arranging the escape route, the emperor had called him to an audience where his lackeys had chastised him for not bringing them samples of the Romans’ new weapons or intelligence about what was happening on the British Isles. Caesius had made many promises that he would provide what the emperor wanted, but he now knew that was never going to happen.

His ring of informants was gone, that much was clear. Only one man had escaped the island after the last set of raids by the praetorians, and he reported the total collapse of the ring of loyalists and the disgruntled followers they had put together since the failed insurrection. With that, Caesius had lost anything he had to offer the Carthaginians, who were actively looking for scapegoats to feed to their bloodthirsty emperor.

The final straw had come that morning when word trickled in that the Romans had not only crushed a huge army in Germania but had convinced dozens of tribes to join the fight against Carthage. Caesius had been lucky that his man had been at the docks, working on preparations for their escape, when the wounded and dying man, after a mad dash across the continent, had landed there.

The man’s weakened state led to an unforeseen delay in bringing him before the emperor, affording Caesius a fleeting opportunity to stay a step ahead. The survivor’s sudden arrival signaled that Caesius could delay no longer. There was no time for Caesius to execute his meticulously crafted plan to evade the ever-present, watchful eyes of the emperor’s guard dogs, who had been relentlessly stalking him for months. Caesius had been utterly convinced that this most recent failure would be the tipping point that sent him spiraling towards the cold embrace of the executioner’s block, compelling him to rely on desperate improvisation.

Once Caesius had dispatched his accomplice, to hasten the captain in readying the vessel, he dealt with the two death-masked guards tailing him. Their deadliness had been astonishing; half of the hired ruffians Caesius had recruited to safeguard his passage to Asia had perished. Yet, they had fulfilled their purpose. Their deaths mattered little to him. There were always more brutes for hire. Time, or the absence thereof, was the true enemy that gnawed at him, which explained Caesius’s impatience with the sluggish pace of the men loading the ship.

“We’ll be prepared to set sail within the hour, my lord,” the captain assured him, a note of trepidation coloring his words.

“Twenty minutes, no more!” Caesius snapped. “After that, we depart, whether you’re ready or not.”

“I can’t...”

“My lord,” Caesius’s servant interjected, his finger urgently pointing at something further down the docks.

A force of two dozen guards, spearheaded by six of the menacing death-masked men, marched steadily toward them. Panic seized Caesius. How had they been discovered so swiftly? He had been meticulous in his dealings, only using intermediaries and avoiding these remote, seldom-used docks himself.

“Go. Delay them,” Caesius barked at his remaining guards.

His men exchanged nervous glances, eyeing the advancing guards, and took flight. Their desperate sprint led them directly into the path of another dozen guards approaching from the opposite direction, who showed no mercy as they cut them down without hesitation.

“Move. Cast off. Get me away from here,” Caesius pleaded with the ship’s captain, his voice trembling with terror.

“No. Not me. I didn’t know,” the captain stammered, his words aimed more toward the encroaching guards than Caesius as he dropped to his knees in a prostrate display of submission.

“Caesius Germanicus, by order of the emperor, you are under arrest,” the guard captain announced, as they reached their quarry.

A pitiful whimper, unbidden, escaped Caesius’s throat as they seized him.


“The wall must be angled thirty degrees in this direction and extend seamlessly into the water,” Velius instructed, gesturing toward a section of the beach. “Check the architect’s notes about sinking the pillar far enough into the ground. If they bring in ships armed with siege weapons, we need these to hold up to sustained fire.”

It had taken almost a month to clear the multitude of bodies that littered the beach and extended up the mountainside. While they hadn’t exterminated every last Carthaginian, the defeat had been absolute. Velius had sacrificed only thirty men in the exchange, marking this as potentially one of the most uneven victories in history. He was under no illusion, however, that this triumph would go unchallenged. The groundbreaking rifles had taken the enemy by surprise, instilling terror and confusion. Regrettably, that shock would probably only serve them once.

The next time, the Carthaginians would be ready for them. Had they maintained their formation and advanced, accepting the mounting casualties, they would have eventually breached the Britannian lines. The bayonets, devised by the Consul to function as spears, when required, were ingenious, but they were no match for heavily armored soldiers. If the Carthaginians had reached them, the outcome would have been disastrous.

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