"Several months ago I received intelligence that one of our very own countrymen had landed upon these shores, charged with the task to recruit warriors to aid Gaul in the fight against our forces. Someone in Rome is conspiring against me. I do not lack enemies, nor am I averse to making more of them if needs be. The report went on to say that the agent possessed a knowledge of the language and a chest filled with gold. As you may have realised the number of Britons fighting in Gaul has increased over the past six months Lucius. This man is proving to be a thorn in our side."
The charm and warmth went out of Caesar's aspect as he spoke about the agent. His eyes were narrowed in scorn, his voice cold. Oppius could not help but despise the treacherous agent too, in sympathy.
"The latest intelligence from my own agents suggests that he is recruiting among the tribes and villages in Kent, a region not far from here. You are familiar with the British archer in our ranks?"
"Yes," Oppius replied, with a part of him now wishing that he didn't know the man. For the centurion could sense what lay on the horizon.
"And he is familiar with this area and that of Kent I believe. Do you trust him?"
"Yes," Oppius again replied, cursing his own honesty and Teucer's trustworthiness. Every "yes" was like a nail in his own coffin, he fleetingly thought.
The rain thrummed upon the roof of the tent even louder and thunder rumbled in the distance. Bowls of squid, mushrooms, quail eggs and honey-glazed slices of pork lay before him, but Oppius no longer felt hungry.
"Britain is far too hostile at present for me to send a cohort out to track down this recruiting officer. No, less will prove more. Two men will prove far more efficient than two hundred for the job ahead. I mentioned earlier Lucius how I couldn't quite figure out if you were mad or lucky. Well I am now asking you to be mad and lucky. Mad enough to accept this mission, not that you have much choice in the matter unfortunately. And I also want you to be lucky enough to complete it," Caesar remarked, popping an olive into his mouth and smiling, as if amused by the shock that he had just inspired in his centurion.
"And should I locate the agent," Oppius remarked.
"Ideally I would like you to capture the rogue and bring him back to me, but failing that - kill him," Caesar replied, whilst grinning in an altogether different manner. "You have my blessing to torture him too, in order to extract the names of his employers out of him."
Oppius finished the remainder of his blood-red wine. The falernian was a world away from the watered-down acetum he was used to drinking. Perhaps Caesar had opened the vintage as he suspected that it would be the soldier's last good meal. Oppius thought how his father was considered a legend within the legion. He would now be making history too, Lucius grimly joked to himself, as the shortest ever serving officer with the legion. Promoted one day, killed the next.