Re-blog. An oldie.
The centurion acknowledged the messenger with a curt nod, turned and entered the inner sanctum of the tent.
A senior army officer stood washing his hands at one of the numerous hand basins.
‘General?” the centurion said.
‘He’s here,sir,’ the centurion announced.
‘Already? He must be exhausted. That was a long ride. Has he been fed and watered? Him, I mean, not the horse,’ the General chuckled.
‘He has been offered food and drink, sir. He took a little wine, but says he will eat after he’s seen the Emperor.’
The centurion shrugged, as if to suggest: Not my problem if some stupid old religious idiot wants to die on his feet.
The general smiled as if reading Antoninus’ thoughts.
‘Have him sent through, then. We can’t have the martyrdom of yet another follower of Chrestus on our conscious, can we? Especially not through starvation.’
‘Yes, sir!’ Antoninus grinned back at his senior officer then turned to fetch the visitor.
‘How are you, old friend?’ enquired the Emperor, embracing the old man.
‘Tired, my lord. Very tired. But made stronger by the presence of the Almighty. He upholds us all.’
‘Indeed he does, indeed he does,’ Constantine replied solemnly.
There were a few moments introspection from both men, before the Emperor took Eusebius by the elbow and guided him to a seat, at the table.
Dismissing several slaves, Constantine proceeded to fill a gold platter with food then filled a goblet with wine which he put before the old man.
After five minutes devoted solely to eating and drinking, Eusebius wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin then washed his hands in a hand basin of lemon water.
‘I can guarantee the support of every Bishop in the east. The west will follow. Why would they not? A Christian empire. My God! It is more than they could have ever dreamed of. Diocletian almost broke us. We cannot take another monster.’
Constantine’s eyes narrowed in the wan light.
‘Well, there is still the matter of my brother-in-law to take care of first.’
‘God will guide you, Constantine. You will prevail.’
Constantine smiled at the familiarity, thinking: He better you old fool. He damn-well better.
‘General? What news of Maxentius?’
‘We will not have to endure a siege of Rome after all, sir. Even now he readies his troops outside the city.’
‘Good. He will try to prevent us crossing the Tiber, but that will be his downfall.
The men are ready?’
‘Yes, sir. Dissent amongst Maxentius ranks has already been sown. It will be like having our own Trojan horse.’
‘Bless the Greeks, eh, Eusebius?’
Eusebius smiled and nodded.
‘When I take the field tomorrow I shall claim the victory in the name of Chrestus. And I want a cross painted on every soldier’s shield before we go into battle. Tell the troops I have had a vision.’
‘Yes, sir,’ the general replied.
Constantine clapped his hands. Two slaves entered.
‘Go, now my old friend. Rest. Sleep. Tomorrow you shall have your Christian empire.
Eusebius left, guided out of the Emperor’s tent by the slaves.
‘I wonder what he was like, eh?’
‘Excuse me, sir?’
‘This Chrestus. The prophet that Eusebius goes on about.’
‘Ah. Never held much stock in it, to be honest, sir. One god is as good another. If it brings stability to the empire I’d worship a toad.’
‘But a toad will not likely have so many followers. And none prepared to die in its name. And of course, there are the taxes. I mean, tribute, to consider.’ Constantine winked.
‘When this is over, general, how would you like to retire to a nice villa in Spain?’
‘Sounds like a very pleasant idea, sir.’
‘My mother has expressed a desire to visit Jerusalem. Maybe she might find the cross, eh, general?’
‘I will send word to ensure she does, sir,’ the general replied, straight-faced.
‘Wonderful. Now I think I shall retire. I have a vision to dream. Good night, General. God preserve us tomorrow.’
‘Any particular one, sir?’ the general asked smiling.
‘Why, general. Have you become a heathen again so soon?’
Constantine retired to his sleeping quarters. General *Tacticus bellowed with laughter as he left the tent, giving the bemused centurion a comradely slap on the shoulder.
*Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28th 312 to become sole emperor of the east. In 324 he attacked Licinius, eventually routing him at Adrianopole and Chrysopolis to become sole emperor of east and west, declaring Christianity the sole religion of the empire.
* A hat tip to Terry Pratchett.