These ideas come and go, but I’ve not settled on anything I believe worthy of even a decent short story. While I am an experienced writer of ponderous cogitations, fiction is still something I struggle with, but desire to master. Give me your thoughts on this alternate idea. The last one didn’t seem to work.
Timasius never cared much for southern Gaul. Even in his youth it had been a downtrodden place. Now, lorded over by fractious Goths, he liked it even less. Still, they were a pious lot, in their own heretical way, and they generally left the old Roman alone in his church. That suited him well enough.
Mass had been short. Most of the villagers were illiterate and their Latin left much to be desired. Deeper mysteries of the Book were beyond them. Yet Christ’s teachings were as much for those as any learned noble.
Slowly, for his joints ached constantly now, he removed his ceremonial vestments and leaned back on a wooden stool. Like most such furniture, it was old, probably more ancient than he. Craftsmanship in Gaul had suffered as much as the peasantry had, so the old was preferred to the new. Age had taken a toll on his hearing, too, and so Timasius did not hear the other man’s approach until the figure was almost upon him.
“Centurion.” Time had left its mark on the voice, but Timasius recognized it well enough. It was not a voice he expected to hear again.
“Berimund. Long time.” Timasius turned to face him but did not bother to extricate himself from his perch. In better days, that would have been regarded as a minor insult, but the Visigoth did not care about such customs.
“A man of God now? Hard to believe the butcher of Chalons could be here.” Berimund chuckled to himself before breaking into a cough. The Goth was almost as ancient as Timasius was.
“I have much to atone for. How are things out in the world?” It was not a mere formality. The old Roman was curious about such matters. Did anything of Rome still exist in some distant corner of the old Empire?
“Well, Syagrius is dead. I argued against it. Better the Roman than the Frank, I said. But the King didn’t listen.” Berimund shrugged again. “They say Zeno is pushing Theodoric to take Italy, but who knows if anything will come of that.”
Timasius was confused. “Wait, Zeno is emperor again?”
“How long have you been locked up in this cage, Centurion?” Berimund was taken aback. “Zeno had Basilicus assassinated and took the throne of the East. Odoacer sent the regalia to Constantinople and booted the child-emperor off his throne. He says all the right things about a united Empire, but everybody knows he’s just trying to keep Zeno from having him murdered. Zeno is practically a barbarian himself.”
The old Roman stroked his chin thoughtfully. “So, with Syagrius gone, there are no Romans in charge of anything in the West anymore?”
“Strange to think of, isn’t it?” Berimund sat in the first pew and smiled tiredly. “But you shouldn’t worry so much. The Goths around here are practically Romans themselves. They speak better Latin than Gothic, you know.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Timasius mused darkly.
“I suppose not.” The Goth agreed. “You could always go to Constantinople. Zeno is barbaric, sure, but he’s still the Emperor.”
“I’m too old for that. I never cared much for the Greeks anyway. Arrogant lot.” Timasius stood up, his joints protesting loudly enough to pop. “Besides, I’m no Centurion anymore.”
“That’s why I’m here, actually.” Berimund smiled slyly and Timasius saw something of the young barbarian warrior again. “You see, there are some of us who don’t care for the King’s decision to betray Syagrius to the Franks. And with Theodoric and Zeno moving on Italy…”
“You want to fight.”
“Want to fight? Definitely. But I’m too old. So are you. Still, we could train an army. You know how the infantry these days aren’t worth anything. So we need the Centurion, the butcher of Chalons, to make something of them.” Berimund smiled.
“Take it up with God.” Timasius looked on the icon of Christ, the effigy of the cross. “I don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”
“What if we could restore Rome again? Bring it back from the brink.” The Goth offered, putting his hand on the old Roman’s shoulder. “Would that change your mind?”