Short Fiction Friday: Death This Day

Death This Day by Nick Brown, An Agent of Rome story

265 AD. In the blazing desert wastes of Roman Syria death is never far away. Following a vicious battle between his squad of legionaries and a band of brigands, Oppius Rufus Serenus finds himself at the mercy of enemy warriors hell-bent on revenge, with only his dagger and his wits to defend himself...

Roman Fiction (not to be mixed up with romance fiction!) has always been a genre that I liked to read, I have been reviewing a lot of short stories from Tor.com but didn't find such a story there, so I went through the author of who I read Roman stories and I wound up with Nick Brown, one of my favorite authors when it come down to this genre and as luck would have had it, he has written two short stories so far set in his Agent of Rome series. Now I wont go into too much detail regarding this series but it focuses on the frumentarii, Rome's secret service and it is just what you seek in Roman fiction. Ok but now onto Death This Day

The story of Death This Day takes place in 256 AD thats 14 years before the Agent of Rome series picks up. I am not that familiar with the Roman time frame so every story is another surprise for me, and Nick Brown again managed to pleasantly surprise me. Since the story takes place before the Agent of Rome series there isn't a focus on the main protagonist of the series, Cassius Corbulo, but a different one Oppius Rufus Serenus. So first off since I didn't know what an Oppius was I did a quick search and revealed that is translated into the word knight. 

Alright so the story picks up with a gentle pace introducing a band of Roman Legionnaires who have just seen battle against a group of Syrians, most of the warriors are wounded except for Rufus Serenus who is tasked by his Optio, Eustacius, to gather canteens and collect some fresh water. Everyone thinks since they have defeated the Syrians that it's safe to venture outside the confines, even Rufus himself, as he only picks up some essentials like food and his dagger, his sword and armor only add more weight to the five mile journey he has to undertake. Just as Rufus is undertaking his journey he gets a run in with two Syrians, and what he can make up quickly they are wounded and could be linked to their earlier encounter. What do you do in such an occasion? When you all alone? Well Rufus isn't the dumbest of the lot and uses his wits to outsmart the two Syrians. Now I have to say I liked this part of the story as it is at all not a all out no mercy sword and sword fight but Rufus cleverly misleading and with a minimum of effort defeating the Syrians. With this encoutner done and done, he makes his way to the river once again but here he stumbles upon something he hadn't thought in this cruel environment, now I wont tell jsut what it is but it actually seems to be much crueler that what Nick Brown described with the Syrian encounter... But come to think of it, this must have been the only solution back in such a harsh times... Quite the reality check, but luckily it is an "all's well end's well" type of story. 

 As I already have said, Nick Brown pleasantlty suprised me with his story of Death This Day. Since I read some of his book already this story is more closely linked to The Siege than The Far Shore. As there you had Cassius defending a fort. Though you don't have the  political intrigue that is normally accompanied with Roman Fiction, however you do get the action you want to see in an interesting way and in a sort of MacGyver kind of way. Even more so, Nick Brown shows that he doesn't necessarily needs 400 pages to inspire the hard and gritty feeling of the Roman times but that he can perfectly bring it to the front in 17 pages as well. 

It is still sometime before the fifth book in the Agent of Rome series will be published, The Emperor's Silver, is set to be released on the 11th of June 2015, so Death This Day offers a perfect fix to immerse yourself once again in an excellent Roman world. Luckily I still got The Black Stone awaiting a review and after this story I am fired up to pick it up soon. It's pretty cool stuff that Nick Brown writes!



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