Diocletian abdicated the Roman throne.


He stepped down and retired to a country home in Croatia.

He left Rome to the Romans and so did the army he bought from the barbarian tribes to the East and West. Whole companies just turned their backs on the empire of empires and went home.

Pantea left with his Persian brothers. He was an old man for a war weary soldier. Forty-five and he can’t remember a time when his shoulders did not ache or his back felt right. He does remember the pain from the visigoth spear that punctured through his right leg.

The wound, though healed, made him slow when marching and today moving through the Danubian Plain in a loose formation is no different.

They march with their swords out and ready as they face towards the central Balkan Mountains. This destination hurts worse than most. He eyes the approaching mountains with trepidation. The snow topped crest seems impossible, but a trek through the mountains is preferred to the plains. Hidden around them are many tribes that would love to take the head of a Roman soldier as a trophy.

The choice to march in uniform was a difficult one. Any one part points them out as former military men and a single part without the others would just as quickly yield a neck from its burden.

They march together looking like Roman soldiers one last time hoping their days fighting are done, but sure any moment an ambush will be sprung and they will be fighting for their lives yet again.

Pantea eyes the mountains. Just twenty more miles than they might be safe. Just twenty miles to go as a Roman soldier. Just twenty more miles to go until free from the Roman army forever.





Art by:

Nick Gindraux.



Published by Bryan Aiello

Raised on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bryan served in the Army, graduated from the University of South Florida and now calls Brooklyn home. For more of his fiction and updates on his podcasts, follow him on Twitter: @bryaiello and Reddit: /u/voyage_of_roadkill.

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