Here is a military historical novel I started writing so long ago I’ve forgotten when…
A small column of men trudged over a slight rise in the road and caught sight of the huge city for the first time. It was a dense mass of streets and buildings. Beyond it, a thin strip of blue water, on either side of which the continents of Asia and Europe stretched out in seemingly endless plains and hills.
The young man had never anything built by man which was so vast. Athens now seemed like a small hamlet by comparison. Before that day, Athens was the largest settlement which he had ever seen. The last five years of his life had been spent studying under the bishop at Our Lady of Athens, a church housed in the old Parthenon.
This was the ancient temple of Athena, but he had no love for the Orthodox Church, the Roman pope, the religion of the Caliphates of the East or the many gods of the ancients. As soon as news of his parents’ deaths reached him, he departed Athens.
They had left him a considerable sum of money, and any obligation he felt to join the priesthood ended with their lives. Even from such a great distance, he could make out the domed roofs of churches in and around the city. Constantinople, as his father used to call it, New Rome. The capital of the Roman Empire in the East, the eastern half being all that remained of Rome’s former provinces.
His wonder turned to awe as they reached the great Triple Walls of Theodosius. Increasingly massive fortifications had been placed one behind the other. Huge blocks of stone were stacked to a staggering height.
A parapet ran along the top of each length of defences. An archer could easily shield their body behind this and fire down upon enemies below. Any attempt to storm the walls would result in carnage and a wasteful loss of life. He thought to himself that any other fate would be kinder than being ordered to attack them, even with all the armies of the empire behind him.
The leader of the column, a tall military man marching ahead of their supply wagon, led them towards a high tower. The young man walked behind with the others. Suddenly an arched gateway came into view over the bulk of the wagon. One of the men beside him stopped mid-stride and stared fearfully up at the imposing sight. He took the man by the arm and gently pulled him on.
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