Defender of Rome: (Gaius Valerius Verrens 2)
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Gaius Valerius Verrens returns to Rome from the successful campaign against Boudicca in Britain. Now hailed a 'Hero of Rome', Valerius is not the man he once was - scarred both physically and emotionally by the battles he has fought, his sister is mortally ill, his father in self-imposed exile. And neither is Rome the same city as the one he left.
The Emperor Nero grows increasingly paranoid. Those who seek power for themselves whisper darkly in the emperor's ears. They speak of a new threat, one found within the walls of Rome itself. A new religious sect, the followers of Christus, deny Nero's divinity and are rumoured to be spreading sedition.
Nero calls on his 'Hero of Rome' to become a 'Defender of Rome', to seek out this rebel sect, to capture their leader, a man known as Petrus. Failure would be to forfeit his life, and the lives of twenty thousands Judaeans living in Rome. But as Valerius begins his search, a quest which will take him to the edge of the empire, he will discover that success may cost him nearly as much as failure.
reckless? Bad enough that the most hunted man in Rome had somehow infiltrated her quarters in the guise of a dealer in fine jewellery, but to ask her to host this ceremony … She had pleaded with him, but his voice and his eyes were so persuasive. Only by testing our faith and our courage can we truly come to God, he had said. Only by sacrifice will we gain the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. And she had agreed. It was as if he had hypnotized her with his talk of a new and better world, beyond the
that you are here means you are a threat … and not just to me.’ Valerius heard the unspoken question. Should I have you killed? ‘Your Christus taught humanity and mercy. I have read it.’ Petrus gently lifted Valerius’s right arm, studying the walnut fist. ‘He also said If thy right hand offends thee, cut it off. You, I suspect, sacrificed your right hand to save your life, or perhaps to save another. Sometimes a man must make sacrifices for peace. Sometimes he must be prepared to sacrifice
worst in his characters, but there is some evidence, admittedly circumstantial, to suggest the possibility. Apart from their dispute, in ad 80 Bishop Clemens (later St Clement) wrote: Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death … Peter through unjust envy. Envy and jealousy are emotions which develop within a structure, not without. It would not be the first time one leadership rival took advantage of an opportunity to
flounced away. ‘Am I not the greatest actor in the world? With nothing more than a kiss I have a Hero of Rome disarmed and trembling in fear.’ Valerius bowed his head, not in acknowledgement, but to ensure that the other man could not see murder reflected in his eyes. He had never felt such fury. He wanted to reach out and take the scrawny neck in his hand and squeeze until the breath rattled in Nero’s throat like a dying chicken’s. To flail with the walnut fist until the pasty, overfed face was
a child could understand its meaning. But Seneca was old and defeated and had taken to disagreeing with him at the end. He could not even outwit a man as dull as Torquatus, so how could he guide his Emperor? As he saw it, in simple terms, a man could achieve immortality only after submitting to the indignity and inconvenience of death. To do so, he needed to have believed, in life, that Christus truly was the son of the Judaean god Yahweh. But, and this was what made it all seem so unlikely, how