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.




Author: Bryan Aiello

I call NYC home and wish the subway went everywhere and Times Square didn't suck. I saw John Turturro once. Maybe it was him. He was wearing a yellow shirt and smiled at me like he knew I knew. I am an Army vet who writes. I like characters who want more then they deserve. I like genre fiction. I love space. I love paladins. One day I might write a paladin in space story. Just you wait. The university of South Florida spit me out with a degree in creative writing and I find myself questioning the sanity of going to a school that advertises a fake beach on its brochure ever since. I intuit grammar. I Got married in 2012 We had twins in 2015. I do a lot of cooking and dog walking and ranting about the unfairness of sentience. You can follow me on Twitter: @bryaiello Wattpad: My Subreddit: My Reddit profile: Like my work? Become a patron at:

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