Otho's Regret: The Four Emperors Series: Book III

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Duplicity. Degeneracy. Destruction. One Empire. Two Emperors. Only one can survive.Rome, AD 69. Having spectacularly grabbed the imperial throne by way of a very bloody coup, new emperor Otho is horrified to discover another emperor already declared. Aulus Vitellius is relaxing in Germania, and his two generals, the twisted Valens and the handsome but dim Caecina, are marching colossal armies to Rome to claim his prize. Hopelessly outnumbered, all looks doomed for Otho, until a series of unexpected victories bring hope.Meanwhile, a former palace slave, Antonia Caenis, returns from Judaea with plans of her own...

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Part I - Negotations

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“The Vitellians dismissed their opponents as a flabby and idle crew of circus fans and theatregoers”
—Tacitus, The Histories

Vitellius picked up a snail and gave it a bite. His teeth squelched through the meat. There lay before him on a low round marble table, a platter of the creatures coated in butter and smeared with Garum sauce. Beside them sat the boiled quail's eggs, the roasted dormice, the crispy lampreys, and the steamed turbot that constituted Vitellius’ breakfast. This was the first course. There were another eight to come.

Fabius Valens, stood by the doorway with his younger colleague, Caecina, marvelled at the governor's capacity for food. Valens himself suffered from a sensitive stomach which accounted for his lean appearance. Though to be fair anyone next to Vitellius appeared lean. Even the wild boar roaming the forests of Germania looked distinctly svelte next to Vitellius. The governor was a man of gargantuan proportions.

This was not necessarily a failing for a governor of a Roman province. It certainly gave him presence. The troops of Germania were unlikely to forget Vitellius in a hurry. He made a large, sturdy presence at their parades. They revelled in his excesses, creating elaborately disrespectful ditties to sing as they marched. Valens knew these to be mere approximations of the governor's habits, which had to be witnessed to be believed.

 

Part II - War

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“The Othonians spoke scornfully of the enemy as a lot of foreigners and aliens”
—Tacitus, The Histories

The mountains were behind them, forbidding peaks of darkness that climbed into the clouds. They had proved no obstacle to the legions. They'd laughed as they ascended, recalling that Hannibal had done the same with a troop of damn elephants. Camped in their tents for the night, they fancied they could hear the trumpeting of those long-dead creatures carried on the winds.

30,000 men filled the lush green valley on the other side of those dark crags. The terrain they faced now offered nothing more challenging than a burbling stream and an endless carpet of soft grass.

Caecina stood before them, dressed as usual in his trousers, tunic, and plaid cloak. What had seemed fitting, sensible even in Germania and during their route through Gaul, was out of place in the landscape on this sunny day. It made Caecina appear all the more extraordinary: the handsome giant ready to crush all in his path.

 

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