Interested in the book? Here’s a few extracts to give you a taste of what “The Eagle Has Fallen” has to offer. You can also see inside the e-book, with a free preview on the Amazon website.
Under the relentless Syrian sun, two men crouched, bare-chested, spears at the ready.
They peered into the undergrowth. Silent, motionless, barely daring to breathe.
Hadrian stood like a statue, only his eyes moving as he searched the undergrowth beyond the line of trees. A trickle of sweat ran down his cheek and into his beard already matted with perspiration. To the right of him, Turbo extended his index finger and Hadrian followed the direction with his eyes. Yes: almost invisible in the shadows, there they were – the rosettes of a leopard’s hide!
This was the moment of greatest danger. Everyone knew that leopards were more vicious even than tigers, especially when being hunted. As usual, Hadrian wore no helmet: but today he had neither armour nor mail to protect him. All he had was his hunting spear. And his most trusted companion.
With infinite slowness, Hadrian eased back his spear-arm for the throw, held his aim for a moment –
And the pounding hoofs of a horse registered on their ears. Hadrian started with surprise. The undergrowth quivered, and the great cat shot from cover, going like the wind.
Turbo glanced anxiously at Hadrian. His passion for hunting was legendary; how would he react to his sport being spoiled?
Hadrian looked at Turbo, tension draining from his body as he relaxed. He lowered his spear and burst into a laugh.
“Ah well, my friend,” he said. “Plenty more leopards in this country!”
“Yes, sir,” smiled the general. It was a rare honour indeed to be called friend by your commander: and especially by one who was the de facto heir to the throne. But they were friends. And future emperors needed friends, perhaps more than anyone else – especially ones they could depend on without question.
Hadrian squinted up at the sun’s position. “I suppose we should be thinking about returning to camp anyway,” he said. “I wonder who that fool of a rider is and what he’s doing? I left orders we were not to be disturbed.”
They turned to look. Turbo was first to spot the plume of feathers on the rider’s spear. Imperial business.
They exchanged a questioning glance.
“Further expansions to the empire?” suggested Turbo, and they both laughed.
It was mid-day on the Aventine, one of the seven hills of Rome.
Captain Paetus strode through the crowds in the famous Aventine market, slightly ill at ease as he always was on land. Even his legs didn’t feel quite right without the pitch of the decks under him.
A carriage, clumsily driven, knocked over the supports of one of the market stalls, and it collapsed with a tumultuous noise, sending fruit rolling everywhere. A roar of laughter went up. The sounds disturbed a flock of birds which rose with a clap of wings into the air, quarrelling and disputing.
Part of an ancient memory came back to him at the sight of the circling flock of birds, aves: the Aventine was named after them. Bird Hill.
Then he saw ahead of him the nonchalant figure of the Head of the Praetorians, and he forgot about the birds in a second.
Attianus stood, impeccably and expensively dressed, examining a pottery vase held in his hand. As he stood, a shaft of sunshine broke through the thick cloud cover, transforming the bustling scene.
The seafarer approached the politician, a rare diffidence in his manner. Attianus looked up as though surprised.
“Why, Captain,” he said. “This is well met.”
He clapped a hand on his shoulder, put the vase back on the stall. The two of them strolled away into the crowd.
The legion of the Tenth came to a halt just beyond missile range outside the Popolo Gate of Rome. The great Obelisk of Popolo, stolen from Egypt’s Ramses the Second was in the centre of the square, and the Tenth legion took up formation around it.
Hadrian swiftly dismounted his horse, grabbed a shield from a legionary soldier and barged his way through his troops, with grim determination. He turned to Turbo and his staff officers around him, and declared firmly, “If we fail here, this will be the end of my life – and your careers.”
He drew his sword and strode towards the great gate.
A junior officer on the gate yelled an order, and the Praetorian Guard within range loosed off a volley of missiles in his direction. The range was long, the target small, but the Praetorians prided themselves on being the best soldiers for a reason. A dozen javelins flew singingly through the air, toward the lone exposed figure of Hadrian. Turbo, the chiefs of staff and the men of the Tenth held their breath.
No one could live through a volley like that. Not even the famously brave Hadrian