BRON Part V

Pearl and Amber

The Roman empire is on the brink of collapse. Bron knows she must take her family to safety in Britannia, but will not travel without Aurelieus by her side.

On an Illyricum battlefield, she witnesses a fierce and bloody confrontation between the Roman legions and the pagans and is caught up in the aftermath, smuggling a valuable commodity back to Rome and putting her life at risk.

Will Born eventually reach home? And, if she does, will she find her family has survived the destruction of the settlement?

The last in the saga of Bron's adventures, Pearl and Amber, reveals whether she eventually finds all that her heart desires in the serenity of the green rolling downs of her homeland.

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Extract

This scene takes place after a battle between the Roman legionaries and the pagans:

She ran on and on now, lost and confused, and it was getting dark. This was hell like she had never imagined.

"Hey, you girl!"

Was someone calling her? She looked around.

"Yes, you! Come over here! Here! You’re needed here!"

Her body responded without any comprehension of mind as she crossed to where an army surgeon was kneeling in the mud beside a seemingly lifeless body of a legionary.

"Yes?"

"Press here." He indicated the spot. "Use your fist. Press hard. Harder! I’m going to tie this leather strap round and try to save his leg then I’m going to cauterise the wound. Good. Now go and find me a torch."

"A torch?"

"You know what a torch is, don’t you? Don’t come back without one."

Bron turned away. Don’t come back without one or with one, her instinct was telling her, but then she thought of the legionary, and her conscious self fought back and she flew off to intercept a torch bearer.

They were coming on to the plateau in increasing numbers – soldiers looking for comrades and women searching for their men, others to give aid where they could, and some lighting the way for the litter bearers.

Bron approached a legionary with a flaming torch and stammered out her mission explicitly enough for him to follow her.

She panicked when trying to retrace her steps and failing, but then heard the surgeon calling her and was greatly relieved to see him in the dusk, not far from where they stood.

He had tightened the strap round the legionary’s thigh and the heavy bleeding from the wound had stopped.

"Talk to him," the surgeon ordered. "Hold his hand. Hold it tight."

Bron did as she was told. The surgeon was talking in whispers to the soldier.

"It’ll be all right." Bron didn’t know what else to say to the young man whose hand she was clutching. "The surgeon will be able to see now what he’s doing. The bleeding’s stopping. What’s your name?"

He told her and asked her name and she told him. The conversation lulled and she looked at the surgeon.

"Keep talking," he instructed her and she turned back to the soldier.

"Where do you come from? Have you any family?" she asked and he was telling her about his children and their mother when he let out a scream that would have awakened all the demons in the underworld if there were any left there and they weren’t all here on the battlefield.

Bron turned her head towards the surgeon and was horrified to see him holding the young soldier’s severed lower leg in his hands and the torch bearer thrusting the flame into the bloodied stump.

Her vision blurred, there was a high-pitched note ringing in her ears and she thought she was going to faint, when the hand she was clutching became limp.

"He’s passed out," she choked.

"Best thing that could happen to him," the surgeon said, then instructed the soldier with the torch to stay with the young man and tell any bearers who came along to carry him back to camp.

"You come with me," he said to Bron. "By the way, what’s your name?"

They spent a night she was never able to talk about afterwards and by morning she was dirty, muddy, covered in blood, she smelt rancid because she had been sick all down her tunic, and was exhausted. The surgeon looked down at her as she cradled a cavalry officer in her arms.

"There’s nothing more we can do for him, Bron," he said kindly. "Come, let me help you up. You’ve had enough. Go back to camp and get some rest."