The roar of demanding centurions retraining veterans and new recruits reached Marcellus Julius' ears only as background noise. He strode purposefully in the training camp wearing his miniature cuirass and paludamentum, stopping here and there to talk with a centurion or a new recruit, smiling, joking, regaling them with stories of this youthful misadventure and that one as only a ten-year-old could, as they smiled back, glowed, shared stories about fighting in Gaul and Spain with his formidable father, Amulius Julius Victor.
He did not ask about his older brother Titus. Military genius though he was, Titus was cold-blooded, harsh, and cruel, thinking nothing of taking a Gallic girl against her will as his personal toy, or sleeping with some noble's wife before his eyes. Marcellus privately considered his older brother to be dangerously unstable, and the only consolation to Titus' current campaigning in Spain against Carthage was that their father was there to keep him under control. Unstable though he was, Titus feared the legendary Amulius Victor, and knew the legions would gladly crucify him at a gesture from his father.
Not that Father was particularly active at the moment. He was standing pat in Numantia with his adopted brother Tertius Julius Coruncanianus, planning a campaign to bring the native Spaniards under direct Roman control. Uncle Herennius was outfitting a new legion, the Seventh, for participation in this new war, and a host of settled veterans from Segesta and fresh unblooded boys from Mediolanum and Patavium were signing up. Not only that, but a number of Massilian Greeks and tamed Narbonese Gauls had also appeared at his doorstep in Segesta, humbly asking to be allowed to fight. When Uncle Herennius had attempted to turn them away, they had invoked the names of Flavius Julius and Amulius Julius Victor, pointing out they owed blood debt to their master who, in the case of the Massilian Greeks, had freed them from the danger of barbarian Gauls, while the Narbonese had been civilized by the latter. Faced with such arguments, Uncle had had no choice but to accept them. So many men had come that Uncle Herennius had elected to recruit an Eighth and Ninth Legion as well as a Seventh. The Seventh and Eighth, composed of mixed Roman, Greek, and Gaul troopers, would be blooded in Spain, whereas the Ninth, purely Roman and the most veteran, would be kept in Italian Gaul while Father would decide where to send them. Assuming Uncle did not decide to campaign on his own, a prospect that became more likely every day.
Marcus Triarius, the governor of Arretium and the man personally charged with defending the Julii capital, was busy conferring with Uncle even now. A plebeian nobody whose family had served as triarii for generations, he had impressed Vibius Julius, the oldest member of the clan, and had been ennobled by marriage to his granddaughter Julia Aurelia, a golden beauty of the highest blood. Marcus, a capable soldier, had demonstrated the latest equipment available to the legions, equipment that meant new tactics, tactics that even now he was working out.
Where Uncle might campaign was obvious. Dacia, with its fabulous riches, was the place to go. Any conquests there would reflect positively with both Senate and People, and would put his past experience in the East to use. The Dacians were stronger than the Gauls had been and the Spaniards were, and there was a Senate mandate demanding the subjugation of the Dacians immediately. As a result, the Junii were conquering Dacia even now, and Uncle had no intention of losing his share of the glory and loot. Skirting Junii-owned Illyria, he could certainly reach Aquincum and Campus Iazyges before the Junii subjugated all, especially with a top of the line legion of veterans.
Looking away from a parade ground where a grizzled centurion who had fought at the Battle of Narbo was drilling raw young Gauls into proper Roman legionaries, Marcellus looked to where he had heard his name called, spotting Uncle and Marcus Triarius walking towards him. Uncle Herennius Julius, Father's far younger brother, was a large, strong man with a level of military genius that far surpassed Father's. He had taken to shaving his head , which made him look even more fierce. Marcus Triarius, plebeian blood though he might be, was handsome in a patrician sort of way, with hazel eyes and a strong face. An irony, since the patrician looked far more the career soldier than the career soldier. Cousin Aurelia reported being pleased with the marriage, and it was clear that Marcus Triarius was absolutely smitten with her. A poor match if one was considering blood, but Uncle Vibius had chosen wisely, as Triarius would hold Arretium in the teeth of the gods themselves.
"Yes, Uncle?" he asked.
"What are you doing out here, young man? You know full well you're not supposed to be wandering about a legionary training camp!" Uncle growled, his blue eyes sparking, his face fiercely annoyed.
"Let the boy be, Herennius Julius. It does the men good to know the face of the man who one day in the future may order them to fight and die," Marcus Triarius said calmly.
Uncle shot Marcus Triarius a glare for what most patricians would consider presumption, but since great-uncle Vibius had decided that Marcus Triarius was worth ennobling, Uncle kept his mouth shut. Marcellus smiled at Triarius, then turned his attention to Uncle. "Did you want me for something, Uncle?"
"You are going home, nephew. Marcus Triarius is taking the Seventh on a quick campaign into the Passes of Brennus to clear out a large infestation. Reports indicate that men are gathering under the banner of Gutraucus of Carnutum, a survivor of the Gallic nobility. A large number of Gauls who haven't accepted our rule are reportedly gathering up there along with the usual riff-raff of escaped slaves and professional bandits. At last count, there are something like eight thousand men blocking off the Pass, preparing to attack Mediolanum. I am taking the Eighth and Ninth, and blooding them in Dacia before the Junii succeed in subjugating the whole place."
Marcellus nodded once. "So why am I going home? Neither is a particularly dangerous campaign, especially if I accompany you, Uncle."
Uncle blinked, surprised that he was not being obeyed. "You're a young boy of ten. Little boys don't belong in a legion on the march, especially when that legion is heading to battle!"
Marcus Triarius spoke up again. "Have you heard what the legions are calling him, Herennius Julius?"
Uncle glared at Triarius, clearly sensing that he was on the verge of losing this argument, and sure it would come from this direction. "What do they call him? Citocacia?"
"No." With great calm, Triarius looked Uncle in the eyes. "They call him Imperatula. The Little General. They all recognize his abilities. They all see he is far beyond the stage where he might play with toy swords. He is ready to begin training to be a great general now, not later. Why don't you see that, Herennius Julius? He's your nephew!"
Uncle fell silent, almost contemplative. Marcellus stared up at his uncle earnestly, no matter how it irked to be insulted. It had been a good put-up job, since everything Marcus Triarius was saying was true, but it was also a necessary job. Uncle Herennius was a vir militaris to his fingertips, a great Military Man, but he lacked any political acumen or diplomacy. Uncle could not see beyond warfare, so that meant someone sufficiently august of lineage had to accompany him to smooth over any bad impressions. Uncle Vibius was too old for what promised to be a rigorous campaign into Dacia, the other Julians were busy keeping control in Gaul, so that only left him. Thankfully, he was far more intelligent than any other member of the clan, so it should work out well. Training in war, and his dignitas would start growing now, instead of later, when all the glory had already been had by Father.
Finally, Uncle sighed, gave up. He might not be a politician, but he certainly knew when it benefited him to have one around. No matter how young. "Your father will probably want to gut me, but I suppose you may as well begin now rather than later."
A victory was a victory. Marcellus grinned up at his uncle. "Thank you, Uncle! I won't fail you, I promise!"