Extract from ‘The Senator’s Assignment’
The candle flickered as a gust of wind rattled through the shutters of the fort’s window, sending a thin spiral of smoke drifting towards him. Fabius blinked rapidly and rubbed his eyes; they felt gritting and kept watering but he continued writing, his hand moving in short nervous jerks, his pen scratching across the papyrus as if every urgent thought in his head needed to be expressed before dawn. He blew on his fingers. Despite his woollen gloves they were cold and ached from gripping the pen.
He dipped it into the small clay inkpot and paused, lifting his grey head briefly to compose the next sentence before bending over the long wooden table again. An icy draught whistled around the great hall. He had tried not to let it distract him, but the excruciating pain in his stiffening legs forced him into making circles with his ankles to stir his circulation.
He paused again, this time frowning over the contents of his letter, concerned that it might sound as though he was simply getting something off his chest or airing a grievance; although there was am element of truth in both, he thought guiltily. His pen hovered, his sore eyes drifted to the opening sentences and as they scanned down the lines he gave a tut of annoyance. His handwriting was sloping all over the papyrus and there were a few sentences that were barely legible, but then, he had been up writing half the night.
A squall of rain battered at the shutters. Fabius lifted his head, watching them rattle without actually realising that they were doing so. Then bending his head over the parchment again he signed his name at the bottom.
‘Staff Centurion Fabius Selonianus. Former Chief of Staff to Procurator Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea.’
Not that he was afraid, he told himself blowing on the wet ink; at least not on his own account. But what if his wife and his children …. he struggled to dismiss the stream of negative thoughts that came streaming into his head ……………
Who would have guessed that this one man, having the courage to put pen to paper, would have the desired effect of touching the very heart of the Empire of Rome itself?
Writers – take note. There is power in the written word.