Attila by William Napier

By William Napier

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The surrounding army, though fewer in number, had access to vital supplies from the nearby country, to food and water, fresh horses and even new weaponry. The surrounded army, however, forcibly enclosed in its camp under the heat of the Tuscan August sun, was in no better circumstances than Florentia itself. The trapped barbarians had no resources they could draw on, and slowly began to expire. In desperation, the frustrated and stricken Germans threw themselves against the barriers that surrounded them, but to no avail.

They feared the garbled prophecies of every toothless old hag in the market-place, every misbegotten birth of ewe or mare, every portent that their wide eyes saw in the wind or the stars. The boy believed in Astur, the god of his people, and in his knife; but the Romans, like all weak people, believed in everything. When they saw that great first emperor of theirs suddenly blinded … Then the boy would see what happened to that scornful Roman laughter. It would freeze in their lilywhite throats.

The general grunted and plucked open the sack. He had seen enough of the raw realities of battle in his thirty years of soldiering to be undismayed by the sight of severed heads and limbs. All the same, the dismembered remains of Rhadagastus - his hands trailing purple sinews from their ragged wrists, his blood-spattered face and splayed eyes staring back up at him out of the gloom of the sack - slowed his heart for a moment or two. So this was the great Germanic warlord who had promised to slaughter two million Roman citizens and hang every senator from the eaves of the Senate House.

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